I Didn't Used to Like Coffee Shops

I've never been much of a coffee shop person.

I didn't wake up to the smell of coffee every day as a kid and didn't even start drinking it myself until college—and even then, it was just on the 4 a.m. mornings when there was a snowstorm that took all day to clean up (landscaping on a college campus in Chicago). I never picked up the habit of going to coffee shops because a) it's too expensive and b) frankly, I always felt it was quite boring.

Why would I want to pay to go sit somewhere (when I have a perfectly good bedroom where I can sit for free) for a couple of hours, when I could be adventuring, wandering, and probably getting lost in the dark on the wrong side of town with a dead cell phone and no protective anything?

. . . Sorry, Dad. It made sense to me.

But this weekend, I spent hours at coffee shops, because when I write at home I get distracted. I was an hour into Starbucks when I realized something:

I love coffee shops.

Not because of the coffee—it's good, but I'm not partial. I have pretty blunt feelings about $4.50 for liquid that only sticks around for a few hours. I'll keep said feelings to myself.

I love coffee shops because they're full of humans. People complain that personal interaction is leaving society, and I can agree in part—we do a lot of interacting with machines. But I realized something delightful on Sunday. We may be a technological generation who suffers from an unnecessary addiction to screens (let me tell you how I really feel...) but personal interaction is still in the running. And it's going strong.

The old man at the table in the corner with 5 newspapers spread out and too-large khakis wandered around and came in and out of the shop a lot of times. He held the door open for at least a dozen people. He smiled at all of them. They all smiled back.

The lady with hot pink rags tied up in her hair and an outfit that I couldn't even imagine in my wildest imagination talked to the baristas. Friendly, normal, everyday talk. Talk that says, "Hey, I see you're a person. Me too. Let's talk about normal people stuff."

Women met at the shop to have coffee and chat, couples came for a mid-morning pick-me-up, families stopped in before and after church—and strangers talked to each other.

I watched at least a hundred people cycle through the Starbucks and it reminded me of something. People are all the same. When God created us, he didn't dress us with the expensive clothes, the fancy nail polish, the shoes and gadgets and accessories that set us apart, once we grow up and think we need that stuff. He created us as people who need to sleep and eat, cry when we're sad, and laugh when we're happy. People are just normal people.

Think about that next time you interact with anyone you don't know, and even people you do know. They probably also do laundry and have bad days sometimes.

So, I'm sorry, Curtis. I love coffee shops, and now we have to budget for my new expensive habit.