Cafe con Leche

There is something to be said about the mass of caffeinated people of the world. Ordering a coffee or a cafe con leche abroad may appear as a simple act, as ritualistic or even monotonous but at least for me, holds greater significance. If you were to scroll through the pictures on my phones, you would inevitably see pictures of coffee: I acknowledge this pattern. However, what you can’t see and what I know are the moments behind those pictures. I can tell you where I was, whom I was with, and what exactly I was feeling. This behavioral practice of mine exists because I truly believe that moments as simple as those speak to people psychologically: what they need to get done, what kind of coffee they like, how they take it, why and how they started drinking coffee (always interesting stories), what they associate it with, the palate for it, etc. This seems silly. It might be. But, relive moments in which coffee or food has served as a medium to connect with people through that experience, that opens up a line of communication and authentic interaction; one that goes beyond being full, satisfied, caffeinated or whatever else.

There are multiple cafes that I frequent. One goal in mind is always to connect to that coffee culture, the owners, the barista. Another of course, is that I love the act of drinking coffee and taking time to regroup, de-stress, people watch, and open myself to possibilities. Furthermore, there are connections to be made that rupture the day to day, that shock you out of the personal bubble we inhabit most of the time.

For example, I distinctly the remember the times in Madrid when I was having issues using my credit card at local cafes near mi piso [apartment]. One afternoon, I was trying to get work done for linguistics I believe when I went to a cafe around the block. Usually I escape the confines of my room and apartment to work in an environment more unfamiliar and less comfortable to do my work. Some people can only work in silence. I abhor true silence when I work, being anywhere near my bedroom [mostly my bed] because I get tired and/or unproductive, distracted. Well, there was a communication gap during my order of un capuccino; there was a minimum for credit card spending. Additionally, the machine would not take my American piece of plastic bullshit. Therefore, I was left in the situation awkwardly apologizing for the coffee she had already made, about to run back to my apartment for more change. Of course, it was a rookie mistake not to bring more cash with me. Nevertheless, a kind soul and an apparent regular was sitting at the bar and as I walked away, paid it forward and took care of my drink. It surprised me, shocked me at how compassionate it was just to contribute to someone’s day or routine in that capacity. The kindness of others touches you, even with the simplest of actions. I feverishly said thank you in Spanish, while trying to articulate how much it meant to me. It wasn’t perfect, but it allowed the moment to interact with this other person I would not regularly talk to. Those are the moments I find are wonderful, transcendent of routine.

Those cafes I frequent, I always end up making friends that regularly go as well, network with people that surprisingly correspond with what you were searching but not immediately looking for. There’s small talk about one’s tasks or life, but a simple smile, a small hello, or ‘have a good day’ have the capacity to turn one’s mindset around for the entire day. Smallest moments have the capacity in that sense to be the most powerful.

The reason I am posting some pictures of coffee is not for some hastag, attention, obsession with myself and sharing my routine with others, but to analyze further what simple pictures like these mean and what they commemorate. Pictures while taken instantaneously, sometimes spontaneously and almost aggravatingly accessible do have a story behind them. And they truly say something about the photographer in question.

Next time you take your coffee, look around and you’ll be surprised at how many like-minded, diverse people are surrounding you; constantly filling the room with noise of laughter, conversation, professional meetings, music, etc. The cacophony of life. Reflect on that and then take another satisfying sip of whatever you ordered.

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