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The Daily Wildcat

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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    The cafe: where everybody wants to be alone

    Blanketed by a moist breeze reminiscent of all-night rains, my Friday morning with the New Yorker and a green tea on the patio of a University Boulevard café is rudely interrupted by a stranger.

    He mumbles “”excuse me”” while looking down at my feet propped on another chair. As he pulls the chair, dislodging my propped legs, I recognize his willingness to sit in that chair, and only that chair.

    Barely into the first paragraph of the New Yorker’s cover story on food porn, and with 30 minutes till my friend arrives, I figure why not let him join me? Besides, am I really that person who snickers and leaves, sulking nonetheless? No, in fact, I feel pity.

    The old man pulls out a pamphlet on natural history and a radio. As he gazes at black and white photos of lobster fishermen or leans up against the table to catch important breaking news on the radio, I feel more pity.

    Angered by the pity I feel for this stranger who so insolently constructed his niche at my table – not unlike my own attempts with the New Yorker and green tea – I keep thinking to myself, “”I got here first.””

    And I did. More importantly, I too had a certain purpose for why I chose this table. Indeed, I too am searching for perfection: my New Yorker, my green tea, my foot rest and my Friday morning.

    When we walk into these seemingly anonymous cafés, I think most of us feel some kind of solitude, especially with our lap-tops, cell phones, head phones, and sunglasses. Especially because we’re alone, manipulating our environments to match our very personal tastes becomes almost a game. Where are the windows, the plugs, the bathrooms, the corners? Do they have green tea? Did I remember to bring the New Yorker?

    In a cafe on Speedway, during a busy lunch hour, an artist frequently changes tables.

    As the artist moves from one table to the next, others soon realize he’s studying people, looking for that aesthetic breakthrough.

    In his final move, a woman next to his new table gets up as soon as he sits down. She sits back down at the table where he previously resided, which happened to be by the window. Was the lady upset by his presence, or did she just want the table by the window?

    If you look around, we’re all trying to construct perfect solitude, but who are we kidding? In public spaces, with these narrow objectives, aren’t we bound to include others in our attempts? Can the artist finish his sketches without the pretty girl gazing out the window? Can the pretty girl gazing out the window get her homework done without that table by the window? Can I write this article without using the artist and the pretty girl as subjects?

    As we constantly engage each other in these cafes while pretending that we’ve achieved solitude, it’s no wonder I felt pity for the stranger who asked the waitress if she could bring him the same lobster in the black and white photo of his natural history pamphlet.

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