by Kenneth Justice
~ “It just seems so strange to me that people simply start talking to you at coffee shops….and you’re trying to tell me you don’t start the conversations?” asked the mid fortyish woman sitting next to me at coffee yesterday.
“Not usually…. and actually,” I said, “You were the one who struck up the conversation with me twenty minutes ago”
The woman got a serious look on her face as though she thought I was trying to lie to her…but after a moment her lips erupted into a smile and laughter, “You’re right Kenneth, I did…..didn’t I? I turned over to you and asked you what kind of laptop you have because I had never seen one like it before, and then I asked you what type of work you do on it” she said
People want to connect. That is what I was talking about with the woman and her Italian friend who was seated at her table…..the two of them had been sitting next to me sharing a coffee together when randomly the one woman leaned over to me and started asking me about my laptop……and the computer questions led to us talking about dogs (I have two) and then somehow the conversation morphed into community and connection.
People want to connect. I think few people would disagree that our day-and-age is marked by a lack of connection;
—) the average person in the United States doesn’t know their neighbors
—) many people see therapists to simply have someone to talk to
—) ‘loneliness’ is at an all time high in the Western World
Part of the reason that social networks like Facebook have taken off like a firestorm is the thirst that people have to connect with each other. In a world where people are starved for connection; even though Facebook and Twitter have flaws in their ability to connect us to each other….the little connection they do offer becomes a big deal to many people.
Twenty one years ago I began hanging out at coffee shops, so for me; I never really thought about the dynamics of strangers talking to strangers over coffee. I guess I assumed this was standard fare for the whole coffee house culture……..and it wasn’t until recently that I discovered how interesting people find it that strangers enjoy talking with strangers at coffee.
I’ve always been a solitary person. Immersing myself in books at a very young age I’ve always preferred the company of a good book over a good conversation….and perhaps that is a flaw in my character. I have to make a conscious effort to sit down with my loved ones and friends and ask them ‘how is your day going?’…….perhaps it doesn’t help that I have a lot of responsibility in life; work, family obligations, and more…….that I tend to spend too much time thinking about being alone. If I’m not careful, I could let a whole week or month go by where I spend the overwhelming majority of my time alone.
Thus, for much of my adult life I have had to learn how to be sensitive to my loved ones and friends; knowing when I need to spend time with them and knowing when I need to retreat into my study and books to be alone. It’s a balancing act that I haven’t yet learned to master.
I have a couple really close friends that go back to my late teen years. Although we are separated by long distances….we call each other regularly…..daily actually. If I’m not careful, I can find that I just spent up to three or four hours on one phone call with a friend. I really enjoy the phone conversations; partly because these friends have become so engrained into my life that I consider them my brothers…….however, even with my closest friends I have to be aware of my limits; I need to make sure I leave plenty of time in the day for myself because if I don’t I know from past experience that my mental faculties will begin to wear thin…..I easily get worn out emotionally and intellectually.
In 7 days I begin what will be one of the biggest journey’s of my life. I hope to visit more than 100 coffee shops in 10 countries, and 25 U.S. States in the coming year. Connecting with readers, fellow bloggers, and all of the strangers that come across my path is both an exciting prospect and one that fills me with a little trepidation. For someone who started out this life with a love of books and being alone……I find it rather odd that this is where I find myself all these years later.
People want to connect. The success (or failure) of my Drinking in the Culture Tour lies at the feet of my hypothesis that there is something engrained into our being which drives us to connect with each other. I believe we are social creatures. I believe we enjoy community and connection……..and I believe we live in a day-and-age where more of us need to learn how to connect with each other in real life….not simply over the Internet.
There is something about the magic of touch. Of embracing another human being in a hug. I’m not talking about the sexual intimacy that two lovers experience. I’m taking about the wonder of real life connection that two human beings experience when they shake hands, reach their arms out into a hug…..or feel a warm smile from across the room. There are some things that the Internet can’t reproduce.
There is something about enjoying a good conversation over a cup of coffee….which reminds me,
(P.S. If you haven’t heard I’m going on a national and worldwide tour of 100 coffee houses in 2014 check out my link for the news and stay tuned for dates and locations <link>
Categories: Culture & Society