A cafe should not really feel like transitional space – it is not a meta-place akin to a subway cart or an elevator. Instead it should be a place in which important business is enjoyed, specifically the business of drinking a cappuccino or a big cup of tea deliberately and with plenty of time. It’s a way of ‘being with’ strangers: to observe them all and to observe them observing each other. It’s like an intellectual version of dogging.
Sadly, in the world of the nine-to-five in which I am currently entrenched (it’s anthropology, I tell myself) this is not always so. A queue winds its way around the cafe; a snake eating its own tail while it waits for something more nutritious. There are only two tables and a bar to choose from. One cannot help but feel self conscious as twenty or thirty people watch you eat your messy tunafish bagel.
The cafe I speak of is called The Patio and it’s in a strange nowhere part of the city where the Bohemian West meets the bustling city center.
As I sat in there today I tried to read the copy of Philip Roth’s The Breast which I had picked up at the library but too many eyes were upon me for me to be able to get past the first page without squirming in my skin.
So instead I just ate my sandwich and looked around at the efficient surroundings. I noticed that the typeface in which the menu and cafe logo are written is exactly the same as that employed by the Beanscene coffee chain. Why would they do that? Do they think people will see the font and assume it is part of the same chain without actually reading the words “THE PATIO”. Odd.
Upon the counter is a framed photograph of a man. I had noticed this before and had wondered before why such a photograph would be there, facing the public. The enframed man is young, bespectacled, perhaps a tad too respectable. I assume he is the owner of the cafe.
Today I noticed that someone had stuck a notice beneath his image. For a long time I thought it said “Wanko”. This tickled me terribly.
But then I realised something else was written beneath “Wanko”. It read “Dead or Alive”. Oh, I get it. “Wanted Dead or Alive”. How amazingly witty. Beats Philip Roth any day.
Disappointed, I headed back to the office, unfulfilled by my luncheon in a transitional space where guerrilla artistry turns out just to be some moron flirting with the boss.