On a ninety-eight degree day in Kansas City, there are a myriad of activities that one can partake in. When there is a heat advisory, as there has been for the past few weeks in the midwest, these activities are often limited to indoor fun. Today required a pick-me-up from any place that serves caffeine.
Although I had plenty of places to choose from in the area, I decided to keep it north of the river for the sake of saving myself some gas money. I needed a place to take my laptop and hole up to get some writing done. I could have chosen anywhere–a drive-thru hotspot like McDonald’s or Sonic, a hole-in-the-wall coffee shop like Westport Coffe House. Instead, I chose the one place that is often considered overrated or over-priced: Starbucks.
I love Starbucks. I don’t care that there is a limited menu, or that if you go to a large city like New York, D.C., or L.A., there is one on every street corner. I don’t mind that their coffee cake could be cheaper–it always delivers satisfaction. A centrally located Starbucks in a place where there isn’t one on every corner is actually a very entertaining place to be. Plus, as long as there is an open electrical outlet and the aroma of coffee in the air, I am a happy camper.
What you might think to see when going into a coffee shop is an array of hipster-type people, clad in their hipster clothing, having loud discussions about their hipster topics: politics, religion, almost anything that is regularly regarded as taboo. When I walked in, I saw a bit of that. But what I also saw which I have never noticed before, perhaps because I am close-minded and judgmental, was three high-school aged kids. They weren’t positioned at the same table or in a group, chatting like school girls and giggling like hyenas. They were each at their own table, not even acquaintences, spines cracked on books.
That’s right. No iPod, iPad, tablet, or Kindle in sight. These kids were actually reading books made of paper–enjoying something that is now known as a “lost” form of entertainment.
Rudely, I interrupted one of the teenagers.
Ian, a blonde-haired, blue-eyed boy with noticeable tan lines and an athletic build, was sitting with his nose buried in a Star Troopers novel. He admitted to me that he was reading to prepare for school in a month, but also that he chose this book on his own and that he actually enjoyed reading it. “It’s an action book. I like that I had a choice to read something I would normally pick up without a requirement.” And he was reading it–phone on silent in his pocket, no distractions. When I got a text message and my phone moved on the table, he acted annoyed. After his three hours of soccer camp, he had driven over to Starbucks to read without distraction. And I was distracting him.
I cut my conversation with him short, and observed the rest of the room. One girl was reading Harry Potter. I might be making this up, but I assume that was not an assignment for a class. I couldn’t read the title of the other book from across the room, but that girl was engrossed in it.
Coffee shops that play relaxing music are attracting a more diverse range of characters than I took the time to notice before. The Starbucks off of 152 in Liberty is a perfect place to study, read, or have memorable conversation. And people still enjoy reading. Even fifteen-year-olds who look like they belong on a court or field one-hundred percent of the time.
I guess it really is true that you should never “judge a book by its cover”.