I really should’ve had stock in this company.

It is very quiet at 8AM this morning at Atrium Starbucks, noticeably so, which is a nice surprise. Of course, it is never dead quiet in here, but at least I got a table where I could plug in my laptop. It is these small victories that make up a day. And the defeats. So far, my only defeat of the day is that my shoe keeps coming untied. Not bad, beats an earthquake or something.

There is a tall tall man on a laptop across from me. His victory, too, was getting the other table next to an electrical outlet. I bond with him about this, but he does not know or care. He is so tall that his legs are splayed uncomfortably, one to the front and one to the back, as he hunches over his computer. He seems like the kind of guy who might have been embarrassed about his height and has been stooping for years. He is reading from his screen more than typing, and seems frozen in egret-like repose, finger moving over his touchpad while resting his chin in the palm of his other hand. A man calls out, “Mark! You need anything?” and he cranes his neck (ha ha see what I did there?) to look where the voice is coming from as the man behind me answers his friend, ‘No, I’m good.”

Marks. Heh.

Two elderly ladies who look almost like twins except for one having gray poofy hair and one having faded red poofy hair, cheerily talk to the barista. Old people seem to like to talk a lot. God knows my mother can keep talking even if you set off several small nuclear devices near her. Perhaps it is a remnant of the times when people had to actually speak to each other to like, live. You had to go out to the shops, go to school, ride the bus, milk the cows, ream the chickens, etc. People were expected to be good and friendly, God-fearing and helpful. Now, I can logic that all out and know that people have always been people, freaky and violent and selfish and miserable, but maybe for a time they were less so or at least sucked it up a bit more. The serious hardships of the Great Depression followed by a Nasty Nasty War called on people to ask for help, humbled by their circumstances and terrible need. It seemed that one way or another, those who needed a hand got it, usually from folks that could scarcely afford to give.

In the ensuing 70 years or so, through cycles of prosperity and bust, progress and tragedy, this feeling of community and compassion seems to have been washed away. The world is too open, we see too much. It is too much to give to, to fix. It is not so overwhelming when your world is only your backyard and your neighbors and the one-block downtown. Anywhere else, even the next town over, seems as far as the moon. You stayed in the town you were born in, you were known. Even those who broke away could come back sure they had a place somewhere, even if it wasn’t a place they could stay. We make efforts today, sure, and people can do remarkable things, but it seems rather seasonal and event-related rather than a way of living. We all retreat. There are so many ways now to disconnect.

The Poofy Hair Ladies have seen much. They are the mothers to the Marks, and the Marks send their mothers flowers for Mother’s Day from the internet. They are the same flowers, of course, but there is a difference. The Marks live in the vastness of El Mundo Total, with all the heaviness and opportunity that this implies, and The Ladies can still remember when no one locked their front doors and you could lay on the grass and watch the stars in the dark night sky without hearing the roar of the freeway or worried about the unkindness of human beings.

My second victory of the day is I was able to complete this before my coffee got cold.