I went to Atomic Coffee yesterday on Broadway. I love studying there because of the big glass windows at the front of the establishment. They let in a lot of light and allow for some great people watching. There are also a lot of outlets for laptops and other things that require electricity. They are so convenient because, over the course of the year, my computer battery's longevity has decreased to about a half hour.
When I walked in, the only table available with an outlet was the one right by the door. I would have preferred the table with the outlet way in the back; I guess I like the feeling of being hidden while studying. But this table sufficed for the time being. While situating my things, I listed off the events for the evening in my head - study for my French exam, read Writing Fiction, do stats homework, get ready for Thursday's Spanish test. Once I had all my books in a stack, my cell phone next to them, my purse by my feet, and my messenger bag slung over the back of my chair, all my priorities vanished. Something inside of me made it very clear that I needed to look around and observe my surroundings before starting my homework. It was like my instincts were communicating with my brain in the voice of that weird bipolar creature from Lord of the Rings, "No, no! People watching first, study second." So I gave in.
There was an old fat guy sitting by the window. I had seen him here once before; he had checked out every girl that walked by. A handsome businessman was sitting behind me, a blond girl behind him, and a girl with a bright green sweatshirt seated at my coveted table in the back. There were a couple of college girls chatting away while trying to study, and the usual tattooed barista was working this shift - a typical Atomic Coffee crowd of college students, white-collars, and homely downtown people. Then I noticed a man seated by himself to my left. He was dressed like a middle-aged college professor suffering from depression. He had no books, no laptop, no wedding ring, no cell phone. It was just him and his 20-oz. cup.
"What is he doing here by himself?"
I got bored watching this guy. He was probably bored, too, so I started to study. After reading a page and a half about writing in first person, my eyes wandered back to this creature. He was bald on the very top of his head, pretty big-bellied, wore glasses, not attractive but not ugly.. then I nailed it.
"He looks like George Costanza from Seinfeld! Haha!"
I thought this fact had quenched my desire to observe. I kept on reading. I looked back again! I was so enthralled by this man's averageness and lack of technology that I just had to discover what he was doing here. Overwhelmed with curiosity, I almost asked him. I can't imagine the strange look I had on my face as I stared. It caused him to look at me, wondering why I was looking at him. Oh no. My eyes quickly shifted to the EXIT sign above the door at the other side of the room, stayed there for a nano second, then I dropped my head and kept reading. Awkward.
A few minutes later, the girl with the bright green sweatshirt seated at the back-table-with-an-outlet that I so much desired walked out. My favorite person in the whole room, George-look-alike, got up at the same time. I moved some of my things to that back table then returned to my original table to retrieve the rest of my belongings. George had left. I never found out what he was doing there without a computer, without a friend or lover, no wedding ring, no book or cell phone. It was just him and his coffee.