I was in a Starbucks last week – 8:30 on a Sunday morning buying ground coffee because we had run out. One never knows what one will find. I hardly ever go to Starbucks – not because I have an ideological difference (I haven’t actually paid enough attention to the coffee wars – I should.) but because I don’t have the time for lolling around. But when I do go, I like the feeling of people who are friendly with one another, hanging around. God knows we don’t do enough of that.
So here I am, waiting for them to grind my coffee, and a woman who was in line before me takes her stuff and goes over to a table where a much older, tiny woman is sitting. The younger woman says, “Excuse me, I was sitting here,” and takes some magazines off the chair opposite the older woman and throws them on the table. I think the old woman is confused. But the stance of the younger woman is clearly aggressive, so she sidles off the chair and looks for somewhere else to sit. I am a little mortified and watch her, hoping she’ll find another seat, but the place is pretty full and all the tables that have two chairs have at least one person sitting at them. She goes to a table and asks a woman if she can sit down opposite her, the woman shakes her head. Then to another, and this time the woman shrugs, clearly annoyed, and says, “If you have to, I guess.” There is no doubting her body language. The old woman slips into the chair and just sits. Quietly. She does not open the magazine she has in her hand, but sits with hands folded in her lap.
What is she waiting for? She’s not homeless – at least, she looks too well dressed to be, she doesn’t seem to be waiting for coffee. It is agony to watch her discomfort but luckily (for me!) another table empties, and she walks over to it – with small, timid steps and big, light eyes. She now has a table all to herself, and I can relax. I take my coffee and leave, but I am almost crying – surprised that this little Starbucks drama has gotten so under my skin.