One of my favorite spots for breakfast is Nations Hamburgers. Their breakfasts are basic fare and I have always loved pancakes. Now I can sit inside and enjoy coffee with no rush. So I sit. Sip some coffee. Surreptitiously watch the people come and go. Coffee shops are interesting for armchair anthropologists like me. Whether in Hanoi silently observing the phones playing video games and the loud and boisterous talk or the more sedate coffee houses in Daly City the method is always the same.
Stop and sit quietly. Be alone and become just a fixture at the table. Listen to the orders. Watch as people enter and stand about 2m apart. Social distancing here is widely observed and masks are prevalent which takes me to the next thing. The eyes. A white or blue mask makes the eyes particularly stand out. They appears as paths or walkways to a person. Glasses do not obscure the light and darkness in the eyes. Happiness and sadness. Flirtations and solemnity. Being tired and still engaging the kids. The eyes have it. Windows to the soul you say?
I think so. But the real thing is the view of the people in lives they share for mere moments. Sometimes magazines or newspapers carefully rolled or the tight grasp on the phone. A child speaks. The sun breaks from the clouds.
The spell is broken. And I wait for another living story to enter. Order given and food received.
Life not on hold but perhaps for moments a new yet old normal enters in these pandemic times. Now we can sit inside and observe. Watch and drink coffee.
Food is all gone now. Voices slur around their eggs and burgers. Food is definitely the glue in this Nations. But so are the cues. The eyes crinkling at the corners. Remembering the smiles of my Vietnamese friends that lit their faces. Still there and me here.
Now I’ll finish my coffee. Perhaps shop a little at Safeway and just watch. Words not necessary ever. Eyes speak louder than voices.