For a few years, comedian Jerry Seinfeld quietly went about making an interesting series of videos. After ending his sitcom he had lived his life laying low and doing comedy when he wanted. Then he had the idea to record himself going to coffee with several of his comedian friends. The show “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee” was very straightforward. Seinfeld would pick a car that had something in common with his guest and he’d pick them up and drive them to get coffee. They’d talk in the car, while walking to the restaurant and during coffee or breakfast. The whole premise is sitting down and having two people engage in conversation across a table.
I’m completely addicted to this show now. It doesn’t matter who the guest is or if I even like them, I love watching the two people have coffee and laugh together for 15 minutes. There's something so genuinely wonderful about a good conversation.
I love coffee. I’ll drink a simple, black coffee with sugar and enjoy it. I’ll take a flavored coffee. I love a good cappuccino or mocha. But how do I feel about people?
I’m fond of saying “I hate people”. There must be some truth to that. I suppose if you’re reading this you may know something about me and you may have your own opinion about the truth of that phrase. I hate social situations, or at least when I have to be involved in them and I hate being forced to interact with people when I don’t get to choose the people. Maybe that’s the thing. Maybe I like “my people” but not the others? But then you may also conclude that the way I observe people when I come out of my hermitage indicates that I actually love people. They can certainly be entertaining. Whatever the truth may be, watching this show makes me really miss having coffee with some of my friends.
Over the years I’ve had the good fortune of bonding over caffeine with some interesting people. The coffee shop seems to be the place where it’s socially acceptable to buy something cheap and then take up space there for hours on end. Restaurants work too, but there’s some thought and effort that goes into eating. Somehow that takes something away from a good conversation. Also, they want your table so they can keep making money. Starbucks doesn’t care.
I’ve had talks with artists, musicians, professors and long-term friends with a hot cup of coffee in front of me. Sometimes it’s a former student I get to catch up with. Sometimes it’s G. You don’t always think of having a coffee and catching up with your wife, but there’s the occasional Saturday morning when breakfast turns into coffee talk and before you know it, you’ve been sitting there a good portion of the morning. That’s the kind of coffee talk I mean. The kind where you spend hours talking, laughing and waxing philosophical and really getting to know the person across from you. I don’t mind watching you from a distance and observing your every move. I may draw you or sneak a photo to draw later but while I’m doing that, I’m also thinking about what you’re thinking about…wondering what’s going through your head or what difficult things you’re dealing with in life. That’s all part of the intrigue. But getting to ask you over a steaming cup of coffee is so much more satisfying.
My friend Donovan usually checks in when he breezes through town on what I call one of his “tours”. If I’m lucky I’ll get penciled in for a stop at Barnes & Noble in the fake Starbucks. We’ll spend hours there cackling like old hens in those seats that make your butt sweat so when you stand up you wonder if you sat in something. I generally get to have coffee with Logan on one of our beach trips. We load the kids up on cookies, hot chocolate and books so they’ll be willing to sit still and quiet long enough to let us chat. Ginger used to be a coffee talk regular. The kids would ask her to get coffee with us after a meal because they liked hanging out with her too. Ali was a coffee and restaurant chatter for a while too. But now as I think about every single one of these coffee pals, I see that we’re all getting older, having kids, traveling more, getting jobs and generally getting busier with life and thus, having coffee together less.
We text, sure. A well thought out dose of sarcasm or cynicism in one of those rectangular text boxes is nice once in a while. A note to let you know that they still remember you. But that smile stings a little as you realize the text conversation that ensues is a lame substitute for a face-to-face coffee. I prefer to hear the sarcasm and see the twinkle in the eye.
A couple of months ago I had coffee with a newish friend. Justin is the husband of a lady I’ve known for a long time and while I was in their town I checked in. Justin was free for breakfast so we met at his favorite place and had the absolute best conversation. You would have thought we were old friends. I learned so much and developed so much respect for him that morning over black coffee and crispy bacon.
If I had Seinfeld’s schedule, checkbook and lifestyle, I’d spend one day a week traveling around and having coffee with my friends. Maybe we could all spend some time talking and figure out if I really hate people. We may even stumble upon the meaning of life.
If we’ve had coffee in the past or if we ever have coffee in the future, you can be certain that I do not hate you. And if we haven’t had coffee in a while, let’s fix that, shall we?