I’m sweaty, my feet hurt, and I just rushed my friend Kiersten to the train that will take her to the airport. Rushing still feels unnatural to me, so even though I should still be rushing right now to meet my friend Hannah on the other side of town, I have to escape the hot and busy late afternoon streets and U-Bahn stations.
So, in search of a place to take a deep breath and put my feet up, I duck into the nearest place I can – which turns out to be a Starbucks. Considering I’m in a city renowned for its coffee houses, I feel a bit blasphemous entering a Starbucks; yet I feel myself relax before I even sit down.
There’s something comforting about the ubiquity of Starbucks’ around the world (for now, I choose to ignore words like globalization and exorbitant prices that come to mind). This one may not have air conditioning, but it does have Bob Dylan’s “Spanish Harlem Incident” playing overhead. (Let me know, babe, I’m nearly drowning, if it’s you my lifelines trace.. I got to know, babe, will you surround me? So I can tell if I’m really real..)
And it has words written in the shape of big spirals on its tabletops, which makes me smile. But as I peer closer at the table, I’m a little disappointed, as the words I see don’t represent a relaxed coffeehouse atmosphere to me: Give me a moment to think, I read. Too many choices. As I await an answer. Slow down, relax. They looked confused.
Why, I wonder, do we need to be reminded to relax when we sit down in a Starbucks? Isn’t that why we sit down in a coffeehouse in the first place, because we know we need to relax and are grateful to have found a place to do so? If I could design a coffee table like the one I’m staring at now, I’d take lyrics straight out of the songs Starbucks chooses to play, like some more Bob Dylan: On the cliffs of your wildcat charms I’m riding. Or some e. e. cummings: Life’s not a paragraph, and death I think is no parenthesis. And perhaps a question: Did you ever stop to think, and then forget to start again? Finally, some Dr. Seuss, because occasionally, we all need to be reminded of Dr. Seuss. Oh! The places you’ll go! You’ll be on your way up, you’ll be seeing great sights! You’ll join the high fliers who soar to high heights.
Personally, those are the kinds of words I’d like to have along with my cup of coffee.
Anyway, I sit and do nothing for a few minutes. I’m really, really tired. While no one told me just how great my internship would be, and how much I would be learning, I also was never warned that journalists barely sleep, drink copious amounts of coffee, have to research like crazy about an immense range of topics, and pretty much use their brains all day every day. Huh.
But, I’m a ‘good’ tired. Still, though, if I close my eyes – which I know I cannot do because I’ll immediately fall asleep in deep, comfy chair, and next thing I know I’ll be on my train out of Vienna, wondering how my time here passed by so quickly – I wistfully recall the majority of this year that I’ve spent in Ghana, and I briefly lament the slow-paced lifestyle I got so used to there. Adjusting to big-city European life again has been harder than I thought. I don’t like rushing, I don’t like doing so many things at once, and I don’t like having to hurry through a last dinner with a visiting friend at a quaint outdoor café. I do love being stimulated, though, by interesting work, fascinating people, and all the culture and history this city has to offer. (And, yes, I have missed trains immensely.) So, what’s the balance?? I smile to myself, remembering how I posed this exact question to myself and on my blog days before I left Ghana.
Bottom line: I love this city. And I want to live here someday. Starbucks or not, I’m grateful for Vienna’s corner coffeehouses that, among other things, offer this tired but happy young gal a place to seek temporary, good-natured refuge in. And it is with this thought in mind that I plant my feet back on the ground and head back into Vienna’s dusk, ready for the evening’s adventures.