This morning I headed to the Mill in College View, ordered a slice of Beaver Crossing asparagus quiche, a mug of Brazilian coffee, and installed myself at a little table along the brick wall in the narrow western room. I opened my journal, and then stared out the window at Conroy's Bakery across the street (ah Conroy's donuts, I hardly knew ye before my cholesterol rose) and savored that killer quiche and perfectly brewed coffee.
Almost every time my husband Bob and I sit together in a cafe like this, he poses the following question: What did people do before the proliferation of cafes? I know he doesn't mean those greasy spoons that call themselves something like "The Roadside Cafe." (I suppose no one would eat at a place called the "Roadside Greasy Spoon" except maybe dishwasher salesmen.) I also don't mean those upscale restaurants that call themselves cafes, like the now defunct French Cafe in the Omaha Old Market. No, I mean the cozy cousins of Starbucks, the locally owned, espresso compressing, milk steaming, all generational watering holes like the College View Mill (yes, yes, I know the Haymarket Mill, but this one is my Mill.)
Here in this narrow space, the wheezing of the cappuccinos being born and the unidentifiable heavy metal music are thankfully muted. I see four young people on laptops, a middle aged guy in the back with headphones on, as glued to his laptop as the kids are, and a senior citizen couple right in front of me absorbed in a card game. (The card playing woman just said to her husband, "I didn't mean for it to be easy for you." Wow, she wants to mop the floor with him.)
We could all be doing this stuff at home. But it's not the same, is it? So what is it about sitting here in this place that is other than home, where the music and chatter and card shuffling and laughter make us feel more productive, more creative, more social, more introspective, and for the lady at the next table, more competitive?
I still don't have an answer, so I'll throw the question out to you. Time to put my plate, mug, and fork into the plastic bin and move on. Now if I can just get back to my car without crossing the street to Conroy's...