A cafe. I’m drinking coffee, typing on a laptop. I am trying to do some writing. But it’s hard to concentrate. Namely, because I am sitting beside a group of middle-aged women who are having a conversation about Tupperware.
“Do you remember my friend Martha?” says one woman. “Martha has a Tupperware container, she got it at Target, she can put anything in it.”
“Yep, anything she wants, she just puts it in the container.”
“She got it at Target.”
“They have good containers at Target.”
“Martha just loves it.”
“I’d love a container like that.”
“You should go to Target. That’s what Martha did.”
I’m no longer writing. I’m people watching. My stare travels across the cafe where I see an old man seated alone. He is eating a sandwich, sipping coffee. He wears a ratty ball cap and gazes out the window. I have a soft spot for old men who look out windows.
Over to my left are teenagers—boys and girls. One boy is wearing a Boy Scout uniform, a girl sits beside him. They are holding hands. I smile because these kids are so happy Norman Rockwell would eat his heart out.
Also, I see an elderly couple sitting behind me. He’s talking into a cellphone, using a voice loud enough to register on the Richter Scale.
Cellphone Guy shouts, “My doctor said my heart is looking good, honey! There’s nothing to worry about! I don’t need surgery after all!”
And the ladies beside me keeps talking:
“Yep, Martha told me the lid just unscrews off her container.”
“The lid unscrews?”
“On and off, just like this.”
“How does it go back on?”
“When you wanna put the lid on, you screw it on. When you wanna take it off, you unscrew it.”
“Whose container is this again?”
“Martha’s container, she got it at Target.”
Give me strength.
So I’m not getting any writing done. I’m too busy observing the guy in the ratty cap, still staring out the window. He wears a tired face, it looks like he hasn’t shaved in days, his shirt has stains on it, and I can’t help but wonder who he belongs to.
Also, I’m too busy paying attention to Cellphone Guy, whose wife leans forward and shouts into the phone. “We’re so grateful your father’s heart is okay!”
And I can’t unhear the laughing from the ladies beside me.
“Well, I’ve never had a lid that unscrews. I’ve only had containers with lids that pop off. ”
“Me, too. My lids have always just popped off.”
“Whenever I’ve wanted take my lids off, I just popped them right off, like this, and that was how we did it.”
And Ratty Ballcap has finished his sandwich. Now, he is sipping his coffee with both hands. He keeps looking out the window with sad eyes.
His eyes follow a red SUV that rolls into the parking lot. A young woman steps out. She has blond hair, and is well-dressed. The old man is obviously taken with this woman because he is glued to the window.
More laughter from the Tupperware crew.
“Yep, Martha just walked right into Target and told that man, ‘I want a container with a lid that unscrews.’”
“Target has great containers.”
“They really do.”
Then the teens laugh. Boy Scout and his girl are scooting closer now. She’s leaning on him. I wish you could see how uncomfortable but altogether sincere they look.
Ratty Ballcap stands, preparing to greet the blonde from the SUV who is walking into the cafe. She makes a beeline for the old man. They embrace. She calls him Dad.
He is facing me. He pats her shoulders and closes his eyes. He looks enraptured.
“Sorry I’m late, Dad,” the blonde says to Ratty Cap. “Have you been waiting long?”
He grins. “Nope, just got here.”
My attention moves back to Cellphone Guy, he and his wife are still sharing the phone. The phone is on speaker so everyone in the restaurant can fully enjoy their conversation.
“We’re coming to see you tomorrow! We can’t wait to see you, honey! We love you so much!”
Anyway, I guess I’m not going to get any actual work done today. I’m too busy watching total strangers. But who cares? I’m seeing the mystery of the universe unfold itself right here in a small cafe.
And the great thing is, this sort of thing doesn’t just happen in cafes. It happens in airports, high schools, Waffle Houses, fellowship halls, trailer parks, county prisons, living rooms, hospitals, rehabs, classrooms, and nursing homes. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but people who love each other are everywhere. It is my absolute highest aspiration to be one of those people.
But first I’ve got to swing by Target.