Have you ever been to Bean Traders Coffee? If not, you should. The owners and the staff are hip, the music is eclectic and the coffee is great. Funny thing happened to me there earlier this year.
I couldn’t help noticing a group of people that meet early in the morning and by all appearances acts as the social hub for the coffee shop. It would take too long to describe all the personalities of this group, but I will tell you about a few of the main characters. First, there’s Ted, an older gentleman who appears to be the ambassador for the group. He is very sociable and always has books on birding which he pours over when not conversing with other patrons. Everyone knows Ted and makes a point to say hello before queueing up for their coffee. He usually is the first of the popular people to show up and grabs the big table or sits nearby jockeying for position to get it as soon as it frees up. Then there is Sheila, a security guard who despite her imposing size and demeanor appears to be quite friendly with others. And finally Mr. and Mrs. Howell, an elderly southern couple enjoying retirement. They appear slightly out of place considering their very conservative attire, but have developed an appreciation of the artsy people that hang out at Bean Traders.
From the very start, I was drawn to these folk. They are so cheerful and perky. And so popular! I felt I had to get to know them. So I looked for opportunities to say hello and dreamed that before long I would be sitting with them at the big table engaging in lively caffeine induced chats. Whenever the smaller table next to theirs was open, I would sit there waiting for an opportunity to engage. Before long, I was making inroads. Mrs. Howell’s starting saying hi to me when we would pass each other. A couple of weeks later, Ted gave me a friendly smile when he saw me enter the shop. The next day, while I was sitting at the neighboring small table, Sheila was passing around her smartphone showing how some app could make comical alterations to people’s faces. After the phone went around the big table, Sheila passed to phone to me. I looked at the altered picture and commented how funny it looked at gave back the phone. Things were really looking good. I was as good as in!
The next morning, I found the large table open and decided to sit there instead of the smaller table, thinking that Ted and his friends now liked me and would simply join me. To my chagrin, as they started trickling in and they chose to sit at the smaller table instead. Pretty soon, the small table was filled with many popular people. Sheila turned to me and asked if I would mind swapping tables with them. They all looked at me with expectant smiles. I said that there was lots of space for everyone at the big table and that I don’t bite. I tried to say it in a humorous way, but I think it came off sounding annoyed. You would think I had slapped them across the face. Sheila’s face crumpled up and all the smiles on the others vanished to be replaced with sour, irritated expressions. So I got up and said “fine, you can have the table”. We all got up, I moved to the smaller table and they to the larger one. Ted, probably feeling sorry for me engaged me in a short conversation about the shirt I was wearing. It felt like some cheap consolation prize after getting voted off the island.
This whole incident reminded me of how I used to work so hard trying to fit in high school. Over time, I had figured out that I was not one of the popular kids and didn’t really want to be. I am perfectly content having a few close friends and spending quality time with them. So why did I go through this rigmarole again with these folks at Bean Traders? I guess I saw some shiny thing that I thought I had to have. I had to re-learn what is truly important. Life does tend to move in circles. If anything, this experience just reinforces for me that I have to stay to true to myself.