Don’t Rock the Table!


I had a very writerly moment the other day that sort of cracked me up.

I was at Sbucks. It was in the midst of the road trip. I was in Oceanside, and feeling a little guilty that my experience of the places I’d stayed was so limited to a few hours a day, and I spent the rest of the time doing the things I’d have done at home.

… like the sitting at Sbucks for three hours.

Still, I enjoy sitting at coffee shops. Right now, I’m sitting at a coffee shop. I’ve been here for almost four hours, and it feels like nothing. It feels like it’s still the early morning, even though it’s noon.

That’s how I was feeling in Oceanside. I’d read for about an hour and a half; I’d applied for a job; I’d listened to a podcast.

But then, the lady at the other end of my table started typing. We were sitting at one of those long wooden tables that are all-of-a-sudden very “in” with Sbucks. We were on the same side of the table, but on opposite ends. She had been up and down. She’d even left the store at one point, then returned, and now, she was typing, her weighted fingers hitting each key the way my feet hit the ground twenty miles into a marathon.

Thud. Thud. Thud-thud!

It was enough that it pulled me out of my reading zone, and I had to look at her long and hard. A scene popped into my mind: there’s Sean Connery, screaming out, “Punch the keys, for God’s sake!” For those of you who don’t know, that’s from the film Finding Forrester, which is a terribly underrated film in my opinion. It’s the kind of film that reminds me of the artistry in writing – not just in the words I choose or the flow of thoughts and content on the page. Oh no, it’s far more than that.

Similar to how a good glass of wine consists of good wine, plus – plus the size and shape of the glass, the smell of the wine, the lighting in the room, the cheese or chocolate that’s paired with the wine, the conversation, the perfect chair, the visual of my nail polish and rings as I look at my hands holding the glass, the swirl of the wine in the glass and the legs coating and lingering in spots. Likewise, writing is the words and thoughts, plus. It’s the thickness and texture of the paper (or it’s the weight of the journal and how worn its cover). It’s the flow of the ink or the smell of the pencil. It’s the right amount of background noise. It’s the coffee on the table. It’s the passage of time, unobserved. It’s the sound of the keys. In writing, as in anything, it’s the sum of the parts that makes an elegant writing experience, and the experience matters.

I looked at that lady, thought a loud, “Punch the keys, for God’s sake!” that she didn’t hear or chose to ignore, and then I left Sbucks in a huff, the experience destroyed by someone who misunderstands writing. In retrospect, I’m sad for both of us.

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