The gentleman pauses, one table away from me, removes his hat, and folds in front of himself like an elegant gentleman. He waits until I look up from my laptop computer. “Excuse me,” he says. “May I ask you a question?”
“Of course,” I say. He probably needs directions. Perhaps if his overcoat weren’t so clean and his white hair neatly combed, I might expect him to ask for money. His real question is neither of these, and nothing I could have dreamed.
“I noticed, when you came in”–he hesitates between each phrase–”that you bought your coffee and came directly to this table, without even looking around to see if there was someone here you might want to talk to … which is okay, of course. There’s nothing wrong with that. You’re probably busy–I see you have your laptop out, so I guess you’re working. Maybe you just don’t have time to talk to someone like me.”
That’s not entirely true. I had looked around before I selected my table, and I chose the one most distant from the other customers, the table least interrupted by the baristas’ blenders…. (Continued …)