I’m sitting in a Starbucks in Central London. Nine other people are sitting in this same coffee shop. There are two pairs of people conversing. Both are man+woman, but none look romantic. Five men in suits are sitting on their own, and two women in slightly more casual dress are sitting alone.
Starbucks is most certainly a gathering place in London. I’ve often been sitting in a Starbucks and noticed someone walk in and greet a person already seated. After getting coffee, they have started an intense and engaging conversation – more often than not about work. (Except for one occasion where I think there were three gay blind dates going on at the same time.)
But I sit here, completely anonymous. I’m not waiting for anyone; instead, I am here to do work. I don’t know anyone; instead, I have a friendly chat with the barista then withdraw to a table with my computer.
This is a city where people are not scared to be alone. I don’t feel strange because I’m on a date with myself. This is comforting – especially compared to cities like Cairo or Sāo Paulo where I feel like I’m doing something wrong if I’m out having coffee on my own.
But I worry that I could get too comfortable having coffee alone. Why make a coffee date when it’s easier to plan for myself and myself only? Why take the initiative to connect with another person when it’s easiest just to go myself? Plus, of course, I wonder… who would I ask?
And what would it matter anyway? If I were to meet someone, we’d probably just talk about work… after all, that’s what all the other “couples” in a Starbucks seem to be doing. For years, the line between business meetings and social occasions have been blurred, never more than I’m finding they are in a London coffee shop.