The other day I was imposing myself on a very patient Penfatale (I won’t say who, but she’s an excellent knitter) who was writing in her favorite café. Since I’m on deadline, I’ve become a child about writing and needed her presence across the table to keep my you-know-what in the chair.
It’s a bustling coffee shop, always full of folks chatting and plotting and studying and writing. It also has a dedicated section for children, with toys and chalkboards and toddler-style effluvia – the kind of place I would have given my left arm for when my own son was a tot.
So as we’re writing, the play-sounds of children begin to rise above the murmur of the adult patrons. Specifically, some kid starts banging on something wooden with something metal. Or something. Point is, someone small is making noise.
The man at the table next to us sighs heavily in exasperation. He looks over at the children’s corner and scowls, harrumphing loudly. Bangs his hands on the table. Sighs again.
Then, since his will is still not done –despite his obvious displeasure-- he glances over at me and tries to engage me in conversation: “Can you believe what people let their children get away with these days?”
I stare at my computer screen, pretending not to notice his very public discontent. I decide I love the loud banging and laughing from the children’s area. I decide that pretty much whatever this guy likes, I like the opposite.
After a few more minutes he packs up his computer and books – including one titled Too Many People—and goes to complain at the counter, then hangs around to grouse with a trio of other middle-aged white guys for a few minutes before leaving the shop in a huff.
This leaves me pondering what my friend calls "white people problems". By which she means, of course, the relatively inconsequential inconveniences that ruin the day of folks who are far too privileged to understand exactly how privileged they are. And thus have their days ruined by children having the audacity to act like children in a children's play area, while they're trying to read.
Speaking only for myself, I’ve noticed something important in my life: When I feel peaceful on the*inside*, I can cope with a good deal of external chaos. In fact, I often search for a lack of peace. I once painted a mural in a massage studio and between the peaceful music and the peaceful quiet and the peaceful whispers and the peaceful colors, I thought I was going to tear my hair out. I left everyday and sought out brilliant colors and raucous laughter and vibrant life.
Sure, there are days when I want nothing more than to curl up in bed and ignore the phone and not talk, at all. Or go sit in a redwood forest somewhere all by myself and breathe in the serenity. But in general, some of my favorite things are just not peaceful. Children, animals, cities, my friends, beach boardwalks, dancing, parties….just about my whole life.
All that said, if you need peace and quiet in your surroundings, by all means, go for it.
But here’s a tip: don’t choose a busy café with a dedicated space for children to play. Things are going to get loud.