Whenever I am feeling unmotivated to write, I pack up my laptop and printed manuscripts and take them on the road. My destination of choice is the cafe at my local Barnes and Noble in what is agreed to be the “lame” mall (or so my daughter calls it). In the mall capital that is Northern New Jersey (one town near me has four), this mall is quiet in a refined way. It contains mostly upscale stores and can usually be counted to be a sleepy place full of older women in pearls and sensible shoes. In other words, a pretty good place to write uninterrupted.
Alas, it’s not always so. Today (a Saturday) when I arrived in the morning, the mall was on crack. Right outside the floor-to-ceiling windows of the cafe, there were tables set up with black tablecloths and the names of doctors on folded-over papers. Dudes in white lab coats talked gravely to each other, one incessantly pulling his neck fat as people walked by ignoring them, a model with great abs in her underwear on a poster behind them, extolling the virtues of a push-up bra. A little further on, near the Cheesecake Factory, a runway was set up and vaguely New Agey, East Asian music played while Korean (or Japanese, I’m sorry if I’m an awful person for not being able to tell at a distance) women wearing sequins walked the catwalk carrying round fan-like objects. A fashion show? A beauty pageant? I have no idea. The spectators spilled into my area of the cafe, speaking hurriedly in a language I couldn’t identify.
It irritated me no end.
I am realizing that I am getting less tolerant of other humans as I get older. A walk in the city infuriates me now (although that could be PTSD from my previous job which I hated so mightily). Being in a crowd irritates me and I am always grumbling in my head about how rude or insensitive this or that stranger is being by stepping right in front of me or looking one way while walking another. For example, as I write this at the cafe, a woman inexplicable talks to herself in a table nearby in a grating stage whisper. Giving dictation to her computer, one hopes? I can’t seem to stop the thought from bubbling into my head… is this the best place for that? It makes me angry.
Of course I am just a grump. If I want silence, there’s a perfectly lovely house with spare rooms where I could lock myself in all day. I am torn between wanting the inspiration of humanity (after all, I could not make up a scene as wacky as the one with the sequined Korean beauty pageant without, you know, actually seeing it) and a deep and growing misanthropy. I come here also to be in the temple of books while despising most of the humanity that goes into making them. I both deeply want to connect with people and shut myself away from them, all at the same time. It’s like other people are sandpaper on my nerves but then I miss them when I don’t have them. (Or I miss MY people, really).
What to do? I try to roll with it but find it hard to silence the chatter and irritation.
Wait, the stage has now been taken by young girls in blue traditional outfits waving hot pink fans with billowing edges white haunting flute music plays loud enough to vibrate the Barnes and Noble windows. It is at once sublime and deeply out of place here across from the Victoria’s Secret. I can’t look away. I don’t know if Momma’s getting any writing done here today.