The kids and I have spent the first two weeks of the summer in the Memorial area, where we used to live. Everyday I dropped them off at camp at Christ Memorial Lutheran and then worked on my book in a Starbucks.
The Memorial area is also called the Energy Corridor, which is where most major oil companies have their headquarters. At the tables around me, businessmen and women were meeting about Q2 numbers or about the ROI and closing the deal.
As I eavesdropped on these conversations, I felt like I had landed in some foreign city, maybe downtown Beijing or Madrid. The tone in these Starbucks is so different than our coffee shops in Katy.
When I write at a coffee shop in Katy, the people around me look a lot like me: moms in yoga pants, work-from-home dads grabbing some lunch, grandparents picking up to-go, and zillions of little kids. If you Google suburb, I’m pretty sure all the images are from Katy, Texas.
Unfortunately, my writing time is often me staring off into space, so I spent many hours watching the throngs of people in urban America.
Here’s what I noticed:
1. Colleagues are friends with each other. I always imagine that lawyers and consultants and project managers are heads-down, stressed-out working all day. Maybe they do that in their offices, but when they’re out for lunch or meeting over coffee, they chat. They laugh a lot. They tease each other and touch each other constantly. I can’t decide if this means Americans aren’t such workaholics after all or if it means lots of people are actually having affairs with their colleagues.
2. Blue-collar workers who use their hands all day, rest by using their minds. Tables of construction workers don’t talk to each other, they play on their phones. On the other hand, the more corporate a group looked, the chattier they were, the more they tried to connect with each other. Maybe this is because they’d already had plenty of screen time that morning while those construction workers were busy hanging drywall and away from their phones. The blue-collar guys needed to catch up on their Candy Crush and Facebooking.
3. I consumed more carbs this week than I usually eat in a month. All those hours in coffee shops and cafes will do that. But, wow, I wasn’t alone. A couple years ago, when I started eating Paleo-ish, I got kind of assumed the whole world had started that too. Eating lunch in crowded cafes with 200 of my closest cooperate friends taught me that most eaters are still ordering the pizza, the bleu cheese burgers, and the sweet potato fries. Sweet potato fries are everywhere.
4. Job interviews are nerve-wracking. Most days I overheard at least one job candidate sitting across from am HR person, trying to get hired. Underneath the table, his legs would be bouncing all over the place while he tried to respond to impossible questions like, “What do you see as your weaknesses?” and “What would be your least favorite part of this position?” During every interview, I was clenching my teeth for the poor guy trying to figure out how to answer those questions without looking like an arrogant idiot.
We’re back in the suburbs for the next few weeks. Back to the land of kids, yoga pants, lots and lots of Targets.
And not nearly as many sweet potato fries.