One Table

Have you ever sat in one place for a prolonged period of time and just…. observed? A restaurant, a library, a coffee shop. The latter is the case with me on this snowy December day. I’ve been sitting here at my station in Starbucks watching the small round corner table with interest.

When I first came in 3 hours ago, an aging man sat alone, playing on his computer, much as I was. Though we made brief eye contact, it was nothing memorable. I began to wonder: why is he alone? Did he drive here in the snow or walk, as I had? Is he a towny or a passer-through?

He left after 20 or so minutes, and I returned to my work, waiting for my next subject.

In came a girl, about a half hour later. She had glasses and looked chilled by the cold. She ordered breakfast foods and a coffee and sat in that back corner alone. Like the man before her, she seemed content in her lack of a partner to eat with, and she too stayed for an extended period of time, nearly an hour. More questions arose in my head: Was she a student? Had I had class with her before? Did she live on or off campus? Where are her friends? What else would she be doing today?

After her departure, a couple came and took her coveted seat at the back corner table. They seem happy, laughing over their large drinks. The woman is facing me and we make eye contact and smile every 10 minutes or so. I wonder what she thinks of me; does she find our eye contact creepy or endearing? Is the man her husband or just a close friend? What are they laughing about? Were they planning on coming here, or did they sense the welcoming air of Starbucks and impulsively decide to procrastinate the rest of their plans?

And the most important question of all: Are they asking these same questions about me? This couple, the girl, the man, each has their own story to tell. I’m curious how they perceive the bundled up girl at the square table near the door that keeps stealing glances at them.

I think it’s important that we all take time to just sit back and observe. Think. Imagine. Question. We can so easily get wrapped up in our own bubbles of life, yet there are billions of people out there who are worth some speculation.


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