Every nine months I need to go my airline’s flight training center for testing. Because, contrary to what you may have been told, those big jets don’t just fly themselves. So, every nine months I prepare for this testing, with both the preparation and the testing being, coincidentally, about as much fun as childbirth.
The flight-testing and its in-depth systems exam is a subject for another blog. Today, we discuss the extremely sorry state of this city’s coffee shops. Or, more accurately, the people who frequent them.
My studies send me to coffee shops because I struggle to study at home. At home I’m distracted by things like my children, the phone, my email—the refrigerator. During these cram sessions, the two or three weeks before my check ride when I frequent coffee shops, I see a lot of people just like me, there for the same reasons I am. They want a quiet place to work. With no interruptions. And this brings me, finally, to my point.
I don’t go to Gymboree to study. So why does every mother with a free-spirited toddler feel she needs to bring Junior to Starbucks for Gymboree? Now I don’t begrudge any mom time at a coffee shop with her kid. My boys and I used to go. I loved the adultness of it. But my boys sat at the table with me, drank their hot chocolates and ate their muffins. They didn’t run screaming through the place throwing Cheerios.
I love kids. I really really do. But I’m at Starbucks because my kids aren’t. I have work to do. I know you think your sticky little Connor stepping on my flight manual is adorable. And you know what, in a way, it kind of is. But it’s you, Mom, whose neck I want to wring.
I was in an empty Starbucks the other day. A mom came in with young Connor and where did she sit to feed him? Right next to me. I wanted to kill her. No one else in the entire place! I had to practice my Yoga breathing while they alternately chatted and squealed and Connor spit-up stewed plums. When they finally left, I felt mean for not smiling at them, being nicer—perhaps she’d been starved for adult human contact. I know the feeling. But she wasn’t going to get it from me—not two weeks before my test.
This brings me to the cell phone people. I don’t know what it is about a person on a cell phone, that one-sided conversation thing, which makes it so much more difficult to tune-out than a two-sided conversation. Maybe this is because cell phone people invariably talk about The Seven-Figure Deal or other fantastic topics I assume are meant to draw attention to themselves. But if you want to talk on your cell phone, why do you have to go to a coffee shop to do it?
Case in point: I was at a Caribou Coffee in Boys’ Town the other day, next to a table of eight gay men. For a moment or two I had a hard time focusing on the hydraulic system of the 767, because the men were talking about Viagra.
“It doesn’t make you horny. The ads never tell you that.”
“Nope, it only helps you get it up. The horniness, that has to come from you.”
Oookaaaay. This was information I really didn’t need, but my point here is, after the initial shock, I was able to tune them out. For a full hour I tuned out an entire table of gay men talking about erectile dysfunction.
But, when the guy next to me picked up his cell phone, I was helplessly irritated.
“I just want to clarify paragraph four,” he said, oh so loudly.
Boring! Pales in comparison to erectile dysfunction! But it was the cell phone guy I wanted to scream at, Shut up shut up shut the hell up!
Am I the only person who goes to coffee shops to get actual work done? Is everyone else there just starved for attention or in need of social contact? Maybe I should go to a library instead, but they don’t serve very good lattes at Sulzer and when you’re reviewing the Equipment Cooling System on the 767, you need lattes. Usually four of them.
Perhaps I’m oversensitive. Maybe I’m intolerant. But I don’t think so. I’m able to tune-out quiet cell phone conversations. I was able to tune-out a man and his son when they came into Red Eyes and talked and had a snack and the man read his paper while his son did his homework. I forgot they were there.
I guess I can only say, if you’re starved for human contact or feel the need to draw attention to yourself, call a friend from home, or better yet—go visit them. Don’t go to a coffee shop. Because, on the remote chance that something should ever go wrong with the hydraulic system on your next 767 flight, you’re going to wish the pilot flying said 767 hadn’t been sitting next to you at Starbucks