When Cynicism Throws Coffee in Your Face

While some days are worse than others, I’ve been stuck in an “I hate people” funk for over a year. I’ve had so many moments where I questioned my decision to stay in Colorado, because I left my closest friends in Cleveland. Not a large number of people, but a select few I know I can count on in dire circumstances. Tell secrets to. Look stupid in front of.

It’s been a slow process finding those people in Denver. Today, at my favorite coffee shop, someone I know from seminary waved at me from across the room like I was her best friend – someone who repeatedly told me, “Let’s get coffee!” but never responded to a single call or text about when to make that happen.

I hate people, I thought as I waved back.

The only table that happened to be available was tucked in a corner. Not my favorite spot, but an outlet and bathroom were nearby: two absolute necessities. I set up camp there, preparing to stay there for a few hours editing the first draft of my newest manuscript. With my laptop open and headphones in (even with no music playing) I’m pretty sure I had my DO NOT DISTURB ME vibes in full motion.

I typed furiously for about thirty minutes when I looked up, and saw someone I didn’t know (could have been my age, but I’m horrible at guessing people’s ages) saying something in my direction. Initially annoyed, I ripped out my headphones and said, “Yes?” as politely as I could muster.

“I’ve seen you here before,” she said. “I was wondering if maybe you wanted to join me and my friend at that table over there?”

She points to the table I always hope to get when I come here – but it was occupied when I arrived.

I weighed my options: how much editing will I get done if I’m sitting with two people who will expect me to make some kind of introduction about myself? But then again, how choosy can I afford to be when people are attempting to make friends with me?

Honestly? Not very. It’s been easier to keep to myself to avoid disappointment and stick to my best “friends” that only exist in books. But something about this person’s face convinced me this was a chance I had to take.

Screw your paranoia, Sarahbeth. Go make some friends. So I packed up my stuff, and joined their table.

I did get some editing done: not as much as I would have liked, but the time lost on that project was made up for with riveting discussion about whether it’s polite to eavesdrop on conversations that are happening a mere few feet away from you, and if people have the right to be offended if you insert your own opinion, because there’s no such thing as an expectation of private conversation in crowded coffeehouses.

“Sometimes I can’t help but say something,” I told my new tablemates, *Susie and *Milton. “Depends on the subject matter. If people are showing extreme ignorance then I feel like it’s an obligation. Because stupid can be contagious.”

And this, Sarahbeth, is why you don’t have a lot of friends. That kind of honesty gets you in trouble.

“That’s hilarious,” laughed Milton. Leaning toward Susie, he asked, “Where did you find this one?”

“Back in that corner,” Susie answered, smiling.

We didn’t leave exchanging numbers or Facebook usernames, but we did part with an expectation that “maybe we’ll run into each other again sometime.”

I have no idea if I’ll ever see those two again. But even if I don’t, it’s nice to be reminded every now and then that people are capable of surprising you.

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