The People Zoo

There are two coffee shops near my house. In the Hama you can probably spit in either direction and hit a cafe or “snack” (private drinking establishment) of some kind, but you’ll still be hard pressed to find a place to sit down on the weekend.

Anyway, the closer one if frought with danger. (Oh crud, ‘frought’ an actual word? I’ve been reading the Tales of King Arthur to the kids and my mind is filled with obsolete vocabulary.) This cafe is right beside the grocery store, which has the only parking lot in the neighborhood that doesn’t have reserved spaces. Lots of the preschool moms gather there. Lots of older people gather there, who are bound to know my MIL or HRH from the hellish neighborhood association.

It’s a great place to meet a friend or take the kids for a donut, but sometimes I just want to sit, listen to music, and people watch. I can’t do that there without being seen and then being told by MIL that I’m being 贅沢, wasteful, or causing rumors at preschool about my antisocial behavior.

I guess some people might think it’s sad to go sit somewhere by yourself. But I like to people watch, and antisocial or not, I enjoy doing things by myself sometimes. It’s nice to have the freedom to move at your own pace, especially after a harrowing morning of fixing the wrong breakfast in the wrong bowl with the wrong spoon and then being blamed for someone losing their umbrella and explaining, again, that I know you don’t like the straw hat but that is preschool’s rule, not Mommy’s rule and I don’t care what the other kids do.

So sometimes I ride my bike the ten minutes to the Starbucks down the road. It’s right by a child and dog friendly outlet mall, which is beside the marina. You get all types here. Rich folks going out on their yachts, young mothers dragging uncooperative toddlers, well coiffed couples pushing their pooch in a doggie stroller.

Gold.

The music is also on occasion exceptionally sappy, unlike at Mr Donuts. I used to go there just for the radio, though the free coffee refills didn’t hurt.

When I was a kid, we used to go out to eat and then go to the mall on Friday nights. We’d split up into groups, one going with Mom and one with Dad. If Dad was doing any shopping, I didn’t want to go with him because he’d always end up in Sears looking at tools for what seemed like ages. But if he wasn’t looking to buy anything, he’d let me look in the bookstore until they asked me to buy something or leave. And there were days we would just sit on a bench and watch people. Not in a judgemental way; usually we didn’t say anything at all. We just watched. Dad said it was better than the zoo.

And he was right.

So maybe that’s the real reason I trek down here, to watch the people zoo and feel the silent presence of the man who taught me to enjoy it.

The stores will open soon, and the myriad of characters have started to leave. My cup is empty. Time to go.

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