I had a somewhat restrained violent temper tantrum Saturday evening because after being in the house writing and working for three whole days (after an extended Labor Day Weekend trip and a full three-month summer vacation) I was thoroughly stir crazy and sick to death of the place. This is a problem on the weekends when I am ready to hit the town and the Professor is ready to hunker down. I stomped around the house huffing and puffing, “We might as well live in Akron instead of Austin! I don’t even know the difference stuck inside here all the time!”
It was a very Loretta moment. Except I am not house bound because I am 14-years old, married, poor, and pregnant with my umpteenth child. I am a college educated, once successful marketing exec who ditched it all to blog. And write non-fiction books. By choice.
Demonstrating Job-like patience with my child-like fit, my husband gently urged me, as he does regularly, to get out of the house and write somewhere else, like a coffee shop.
I recently lunched with a fabulously talented Austin columnist/blogger, Eileen Smith of the Texas Observer and In The Pink Texas. I expressed my concern that with my shut-in lifestyle I am starting to feel a bit like the Lostest Generation. She agreed and emphatically declared, “Oh, that’s why I have Starbucks. I have to get out.”
As I can sometimes be obtuse and literal, I replied, “But I don’t drink coffee.”
Looking like someone who had just met the village idiot she shared, “Neither do I.”
Okay so the signs are all pointing to the fact that I need to get my fanny out of the house and act like a writer and go work somewhere else. Since we’re short on Heminwayesque 1920’s Parisian cafes, I realized it would have to be a coffee shop. But where to go? My neighborhood ran off the one Starbucks nearby, besides I’m afraid Starbucks would play a lot of Nickleback anyway. Jo’s Coffee is a fav in the hood, but it’s only outdoor, and I think I would be distracted by all the tourists taking their picture in front of the famous “I Love You So Much” sign. So I went with the always hopping Bouldin Creek Coffeehouse, partly out of nostalgia, since that’s where I once dined with Leslie (RIP) and he kicked my butt at a crossword puzzle.
I made the 35-second commute without incident but was immediately stumped by the lack of parking. Damn. Who are all of these people here on a Monday at 3pm? Are there this many writers in South Austin?
I was spit out of the parking lot into a one-way alley which forced me back on South 1st. Argh. I needed to turn around so I whipped into the huge parking lot at the funeral home thinking I could do a big 360 but quickly realized there was a funeral procession assembling. No problem, I sped to the back of the lot to pop out a back exit only to find more cars congregating. Are you kidding me? The only way out was to wait behind all the other cars also waiting for Death to fire up its engine and lead the train of us all outta there.
About 35 minutes after I left my house which was only about two blocks away, I was finally parked at Bouldin Creek Coffeehouse and venturing inside to find my spot with the people. I was ready to feel the vibe, draft off the energy, write like a madwoman.
Not being a coffee drinker I felt obliged to order something. But I don’t like all the other crazy wacky chi drinks either. So I ordered water, which is the only thing I really wanted. But I felt guilty about that so I ordered some dried out vegan cupcake which put me in a bad mood because my own guilt made me buy a baked good which I am always trying to avoid and then I felt guilty because I ate the baked good which really tasted awful. So I was pretty pissy. And there were only high top tables and I didn’t want to work at a high table with tall stools so I asked the chipper barrista and he said I couldn’t sit in the main dining room because it was for waiter service only. So why did I just order this cupcake from you? Why is this process so confusing? How am I not intelligent enough to navigate a coffee shop? I considered going in the waiter service area and ordering a full meal just to sit in that nice big airy room at regular chair height but I was already full from the nasty nutty vegan cupcake. He pointed me toward the only other small room with regular tables.
I think it used to be the janitors closet. It was a miniscule room and very closed-in feeling. There were four small tables wedged in right near the bathrooms. I grabbed the only empty table and dutifully chose the chair that faced west since the other three people were all sitting solo at their respective two-top table facing west. Half of me wanted to face east and have them looking at me, with me awkwardly looking at them, sorta like the old Southwest airplanes that had the party seat row that faced backwards.
But I played nice and faced west which gave me a view of the constant stream of people flowing into the bathrooms.
I fumbled through the sign-in process for the free wifi which irritated me (I don’t have to do this at home!) and barely started working on this new magazine article that I am really excited to write when the auditory assault began. The woman across from me was mad-texting with someone and the dings were going off incessantly. The woman over my left shoulder was talking extremely loudly on her phone and get this…she was talking about mortgage brokers and lending this and loan that and closing dates. She wasn’t a writer. She wasn’t a creative. Hemingway didn’t have to deal with this bullcrap.
And he certainly didn’t have to deal with the skull-pulverizing volume of the wretched 80s music that was blaring. The only break from that genre was the techno house music. I truly felt as though I was being punked. What are all these people doing? How can they all find this ok? How are they getting anything done? I mean, I guess it would be fun to meet up here with Ross and Rachel and giggle about all the latest drunken antics, but there were actually a lot of people staring at laptops and for the love of God I cannot figure out how they were drowning out the chaos.
I snapped. I had to get out of there. I scooped up all of my things in a pile, clutched them tightly to my chest like a paranoid elderly lady holding her purse in a crowded subway and raced to my car. I had to find a different place. But where? I cruised up and down South Lamar scouting a new spot. Maybe the new charcuterie Henri’s would be less coffeeshopish? No. Horseshoe Lounge? No, too alcoholic in the middle of the day…but maybe next time. Then I went up and down Barton Springs. Austin Java…too obvious…Tacodeli…too breakfast time-ish.
Clearly I had short circuited. It was analysis paralysis. I sat at a red light at the intersection of Lamar and Barton Springs and realized I had been stopped on all four sides, north south east and west, at least one time each during this inane coffee shop pilgrimage. And why, why, had I willingly put myself out in Austin’s famed rush hour traffic when I didn’t have to? That’s it, it was time to head home.
Home! It’s where the heart is, and yes you can go back again. Heaven. I won’t take it for granted anymore, I promise. I will always be thankful I have a roof over my head and a loving family to stay in with on a Saturday night. And more importantly, I am writing this blogpost from the comfort of my wildly expensive ergonomic chair, with the AC set to ‘Meat Locker’ level, I am wearing my nightgown, I haven’t brushed my teeth, my itunes is playing my custom created 70s playlist, and I have Bravo Real Housewives of New York on the TV on mute.
All the mental health you could ask for — and you can’t beat the commute.