One of my favorite things about Paris is its cafe culture. I love wandering down the city’s meandering old streets, getting notes of people chatting about politics or books. Cafes dot almost every corner, customers relaxing into afternoons…evenings…, lingering over a coffee or a glass of wine for hours.
In my several visits to cafes in Paris over the past week, I noticed many people actively engaged with friends, but just as often, people sitting alone. The solo patrons seemed actively engaged in their environment as well, either people watching, reading, or writing. But none had computers. And only one person was on his / her phone.
The cafes in Paris are noticably different than the coffee shops in Seattle, where they also seem to exist on every corner. But enter a coffee shop in Seattle and you will encounter a very different experience – a large majority, if not all, of its patrons (solo or otherwise) are on their computers or phones. Their interaction with their environment is that they are there physically. They are, as Sherry Turkle calls it, “alone together.” They are not relaxing into their afternoon, instead, they are maximizing the afternoon, not allowing any moment to go to waste.
I have been incredibly busy over the last few months, as I’ve been leaving one job and starting another, with several months overlapping. I am one of those with a computer at the coffee shop. But after my experience this week of putting my computer and phone aside and being fully present in a coffee shop, I’d like have more experiences like the Parisian cafe. I am more relaxed and happier for it.