Sunday, November 20, 2005

Silence Isn't Always Golden


It was chilly, grey, drizzly Saturday evening in Houston. Homeward bound, I stopped at Starbucks – I am addicted to their Gingerbread Lattes.

Against a gloomy, cloud filled sky it looked warm and welcoming – all amber lights and cozy ambience. Inside it was warm and some light jazz wafted out of the speakers. Thank goodness, they are not playing Christmas Carols. It is not yet Thanksgiving and I am already heartily sick of “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas”. Especially since I live in Houston, a city not noted for White Christmases or white weather of any kind.

The store was crowded: every table was taken. It was also silent – not one voice was engaged in conversation. Every person was intent over his or her laptop, and most had an iPod plugged into their ears. I am sure some were busy with e-mail and IMs were communicating, but not with anyone in the immediate vicinity.

I have always thought of coffee shops as places that fostered communication, exchange of ideas, discussion and discourse. Think Greenwich Village; think the Russian Revolution, England at the time of the Charles I. Coffee houses brewed not only coffee, they brewed new thoughts and visions.

No longer, now they are places where people sit, each encased in their own little world, neither seeing nor speaking to the people only an arms length away.

No wonder the American People are so complacent of the status quo.

10 comments:

KarbonKountyMoos said...

I've never been in a Starbuck's. Sounds sad - like everyone's in their own little world. Unlike the West Village coffee houses of my youth. . .

Anonymouph said...

I think there are still coffeehouses where this great exchange of ideas happens. I go to coffeehouses to work, often on my laptop, with headphones on because it gives me an opportunity to people-watch or interact with others while still getting some work done. Especially in the small town where I'm currently living, the two coffeehouses are the only non-alcoholic hangouts. I also remember the coffeehouses in college (only 2 years ago) being very social and lively. Maybe it's just a Starbucks thing.

MsAbcMom said...

I think it just might be the location or the time of day. I see some of what you saw at Starbucks on some occasions. On others I see lots of discussion going on. Yesterday my mom ran into several of her students there actually doing homework that she assigned and studying for one of her tests. She was thrilled!!!

By the way, Gingerbread Latte's are AWESOME! My usual drink is a nonfat, sugar free, vanilla latte. At this time of the year though, I have to sacrifice all attempts at being good and just enjoy the gingerbreaed!

iliana said...

I'm a hazelnut latte girl :) I don't hear many conversations at my Starbucks either. Everyone seems to be glued to their laptop screens. I wonder what they are doing.

Melissa said...

Oh, they're talking... just not to each other. If I knew some of the instant message lingo, I'd put it here for comic emphasis, but since I don't...

Julie said...

Yeah, what Melissa said. Probably they're blogging. :)

Green-Eyed Lady(GEL) said...

This is a sage, but sad post.
I had thought of getting out from the world of at home self employment and taking my laptop with me to a coffeeshop (when I'm not outside painting at an easel), in the hopes of meeting folks. (I live in such a transient area, it's hard to meet people unless I volunteered for umpteen more committees.)

I haven't tried it, yet. I rather doubt my area will be any "warmer" at a traditional coffeshop, sadly. You are so right. IT should not be "mini solitary worlds!" I have the same notions about coffeeshops. I think I'll try the ones in bookstores first.

alice, uptown said...

Why do they even bother to leave home? Or are they just trying out running away before they bolt? This totally defeats the centuries-old purpose of coffeehouses -- as place for a gathering of ideas, or discussing other people at the very least. Doesn't going out in public imply that one wants some degree of sociability? What a weird world.

John Whiteside said...

The only Starbucks I go to with any regularity is the one in Montrose, and it's usually a mix of people talking and people on their own.

Wifi does have an impact. I also go to Cafe Brasil (at Dunlavy & Westheimer) often, where they have no wifi, and it's generally more social (though still a great place to have a bite to eat and sit and read). Same is true of Cafe Artiste at Mandell & West Main.

I think it might have just been the time of day you were there...

Ms. M said...

I love gingerbread lattes too. I get mine without nutmeg and I add caramel sauce drizzled on top. I know it sounds like a weird combination but I swear it's wonderful!