Sunday, November 28, 2010

Things You Hear In A Coffee Shop

I’ve been spending a lot of time in coffee shops lately.  I tend to hang there between ‘coffee dates’ or meetings rather then going back and forth to home between my appointments.  I just find those that have free wireless networks, crack open the Mac, and tada, I’m doing everything I’d normally be doing in my office at home.  One day I’ll introduce myself to my ‘mobile colleagues’.  There are quite a few of us doing this.    

Last week, I was sitting in a Good Earth coffee shop, sitting just feet from 3 gentlemen.  It appeared that they were doing some sort of roundtable ‘coaching’, where they’d listen to concerns or issues each was having, and then would provide positive feedback and advice. They were discussing everything from employee issues, employer concerns, work/life balance challenges, and some personal health issues.  Nothing too salient, but it was interesting to observe (although not obviously) the support given by the men to their friend/colleague. I had to stop myself from adding my own opinions.  Didn’t think that would be too well received, however, since I wasn’t actually part of the discussion!

In a Starbucks a few hours later, I was sitting next to what appeared to be a brother and sister discussing their parent’s health.  The conversation was in French, so presumably they figured no one would understand their discussion.  Again I was very close to providing them feedback in dealing with elder parent’s health issues.  Apparently the mother is using her illness in the old ‘illness guilt trip’ to get her husband’s, children’s, and generally everyone’s attention.  We all concluded (silently in my case) that mom is responsible for her own health and that not giving her the attention will send the signal to her to get on with it.

I’ve been observing the shop employees as well.  As everywhere, there are those who truly enjoy their jobs and those that are miserably ‘putting in time’; no different that my observations in large corporate offices.  The real difference however, it that these folks can’t go hide in their cubicle and likely aren’t paid very well.  They have to face the public every minute.  I came close to providing my sage advice of: “perhaps you need to find something that suits you better rather than wasting your life doing something you hate”.  But then again, I was just there for tea.

I did get some good stock tips a well.  A company that will remain nameless is in the throws of a significant acquisition which will only be announced in a few weeks.

Then there’s the couple that believes that sitting side-by-side, busily typing/texting on their respective Blackberries, comprises a date.  Very few words are exchanged.  So my cynical self thinks this is ridiculous.  My romantic self thinks that, gee whiz, these guys are so compatible that they know what the other is thinking.  NOT.

So coffee shops are great places to eavesdrop if I want advice, entertainment, or a reminder why I don’t want to get back into the corporate race just yet. The downside is that, so that I don’t feel guilty using up their space, I have to buy something…and it’s not just a tea.


  1. Your description made me want to pack up the laptop and head to the nearest Starbucks. It also made me think I need to talk quieter when meeting someone in a coffee shop. ;-) What is really interesting is how you connected with all those people without even speaking with them. We are all the same.

  2. I love people watching and eavesdropping like this too. I find it hard to read or work in a coffee shop because I am just too curious and distracted by everybody else! I haven't bothered for years because I know this about myself. But now I'm anxious to give it another whirl!