I’m in Houston. It’s three miles from the apartment to the coffee shop that has internet and the white chocolate mocha that I’m craving, but it’s raining during 5 o’clock traffic which has only exonerated an already pushy crowd of drivers.
These drivers are different than those found in Dallas. I’ve determined that they’re most likely second cousins with New York City drivers; they’re unafraid to use the horn for even the most minor annoyance. It seems an accepted practice though. Nobody sweats or loses their cool, and once disembarked they’re the genial, calm and collected classic Texan with plenty of Southern hospitality to spare.
Several wrong turns later, I finally arrive at my destination. The proclamation that ‘everything is bigger in Texas’ seems to take more precedent the further south you go; this coffee shop could easily house three of the shops from Dallas.
There are a few outdoors-inclined customers outside in the patio enjoying the light mist while seated under the oversized white table umbrellas. Inside, I’m greeted by the greatest expanse of bean community that I’ve yet encountered; a regular mecca of coffee drinkers, business people, laptops, and shoulder bags. A long narrow bar-like table spans nearly the length of the large open space, outfitted with electrical outlets underneath and two-dozen stools surrounding it. Nearly half of them are occupied on either side, almost all with an open laptop and a stack of study books. It seems summertime isn’t all fun and games.
I merge to the left side of the long bar to enter the line and look across the room to take stock of my surroundings. One half contains a large conference table and many smaller tables all occupied by clusters of suits and shorts. The suits are decked out in finely tailored jackets, gelled hair and and actively gesturing toward the spreadsheets on their laptops in intense discussion. The shorts are sporting hip arrangements of designer t-shirts, flip-flops and canvas shoulder bags as they chill on their own laptops that are heavily decorated with stickers.
The other half of the room is set up in several circles of stuffed leather chairs, love seats and side tables with a large ottoman in the center. This crowd is of a wide age range, some of the younger wearing headphones and earbuds, some of the older relaxed with a cup of steaming espresso and the day’s newspaper. All, however, have one thing in common that I’ve come to realize is part of the essential nucleus of the bean community: a cellphone.
Every culture and race is represented, but they all are either on their phone or just recently pocketed it after checking for new messages or notifications. It’s the “handshake” of this modern dialup connection, it’s what drives this whole central indoor crossroad.
I give my order to the smiling cashier who passes my yet-to-be-filled cup to the easy-going guy running the espresso machine. He confirms my suspicions of the Houston traffic relation to New York City, even though he’s from Kansas and claims that they win the award for the craziest drivers. Every city I’ve ever visited makes that same claim though so I just smile and laugh in agreement as he puts a lid on my drink. Coffee in hand, I navigate to a nice just-opened chair in the back corner; a perfect vantage point.
I look up from my own laptop several minutes later and find almost an entire new crowd gathered in their respective clusters and corners. Looking around for awhile, I notice others doing the same. It’s hard not to gaze around at the gamut of people here, it’s what makes this world so interesting. Every race, tribe, and color; all partaking of the coffee bean. It’s a viable peace treaty.
Take note world.