On the overhead TV last week — World Cup soccer; today — the children at the border. Excitement, worries, laughter, tears, camaraderie, rivalry. It’s all there — both times, both places.
At the table next to me — four ladies a little-past-middle-age studying Spanish. They meet here regularly for conversation after class over Mediterranean salads and coffee con leche. One late arrival orders and brings hers to the table. “Tengo mucho hombre!” she says. She has obviously meant to say, “I’m very hungry” (or, literally in Spanish, “I have much hunger”); she has actually said, “I have many men.” Hombre with an “o” is man; hambre with an “a” is hunger. No one at the table notices the error; they’re in agreement. They have many men, too. They will have fun travels south of the border.
In the best spot, a corner window overlooking the fountain — a teen with a laptop has no interest in the view. Drafting a resume, perhaps, or writing a novel about stuff that goes on in a coffee shop. Drinking a four dollar cup of coffee. When I was in college I drank hot tea. It was twenty-five cents. And I used the teabag multiple times. Boys didn’t type much in those days either unless they wanted to be newspapermen. But girls had to type to get a job. Shortly after college graduation when I was looking for work, I recall someone asking if I took shorthand. Seriously? Why did I go to college…or WTF? Today’s shorthand is easy — BTW, IMHO, LOL, etc.
Away from the crowd — a new mom is feeding her infant. I can tell because she has a fancy cape draped over one shoulder and she keeps looking down and smiling. In the “old” days we used cloth diapers, blankets, scarves…whatever worked. She’s speaking baby talk. The good thing about baby talk, as opposed to a foreign language, is that you are free to make up words. Zooby, popadoodle, kitchy kitchy are all okay. Made-up words can mean anything, and the babe’s coos indicate that he/she clearly understands.
Behind the counter — two new people, older teens, a boy and a girl. On everyone’s mind: cute, but can they make a decent latte? We “regulars” have gone through new people before. We want things done the way they’ve always been done. Change gets harder as you get older. A “regular” who lives in the building has just ordered her special the way she likes it. We’ll see. Before sitting at the table, she turns to an acquaintance and says this: I was wondering when they were going to get a pretty blonde girl in here. Big smile. Then a remark about leotards. Girls wearing tight leotards everywhere. I have no idea what that means, and I can’t quite picture loose leotards.
Outside, under the umbrellas — two men with a stack of papers between them. Papers. How quaint. Generally, they would be fiddling with and exchanging i-somethings — Pads or Phones. At the next umbrella, a very pregnant woman sits alone nursing her coffee. She looks distracted, as if she is a million miles away, either in space or time. Lying on last-year’s beach, perhaps, or running through the tall grasses of childhood.
Carry outs — a young woman in very high heels and a very tight skirt runs in to pick-up the coffee order. One coffee? Back out the door again with a super-sized cup in one hand and an iPhone in the other, texting with her thumb.
Back to the table next to me — one of the ladies is going to Peru in the fall. Machu Picchu. Of course, they won’t be hiking; she’s not the hiking type. But she’s prepared to be “immersed” in the culture…with Fodor’s and Frommer’s and an old article from Travel and Leisure. I turn around in my seat. “Neruda,” I say. “Read Neruda’s poetry to get the feel, the real emotion, of that part of the world.” She stares at me as if I have three ears.
Okay. Time to go home and mop the kitchen floor.