I was in a café today fixing up a few things for work, and I couldn’t help but overhearing the conversation the man at the table next to me was having with his friend. Well, I call it a conversation; it was more of a monologue, which is why I didn’t mind so much that I was listening in. He wanted to talk. He did it well. Actually, he did it so well that before I left I was sorely tempted to turn around and ask him if he’d written a book on the subject, or a blog, or a PhD even, because I’d go out and buy a copy right now if I could.
I should have. I don’t even know what this guy looks like, because I had my back to him for the time that I was there, but I’ll probably remember his words for an awfully long time. Pity it’s too late now. Pity Real Life isn’t as easy as Facebook, where you CAN just “like” someone’s conversation, or be their friend because they’re interesting. If we were both six I would have asked him if he wanted to come and build a sandcastle with me. It’s such a pity that such things aren’t appropriate any more. It should be.
Anyway, the point of this, the subject that this man in the café was soliloquizing about, was houses, and the nature of housing in Australia versus what happens in England, Europe and the US. Honestly, I would have took out a Dictaphone or taken notes if I could, but I didn’t, so I can’t really repeat his thoughts here that much. What I do remember was how he talked about how the renovation movement – Australia’s new-found obsession with buying a house, doing it up and moving on – is causing us to lose touch with our roots and our sense of community. See? Fascinating stuff.
BUT…here’s the thing that brought it home to me in a big way…I’m reading Jonah Lehner’s book “Imagine: How Creativity Works” at the moment, and in it HE talks about how the random encounters we have on footpaths, in cafes, during toilet breaks, are often the key to idea-sharing that can lead to big creative breakthroughs, and he presents research to suggest that more creative ideas (as quantified by patents) happen in large cities as opposed to small regional areas. It’s because we’re thrown into proximity with a greater number of people that leads to a greater amount of idea-sharing.
This leads me to another thing I read in a newspaper article once, about how urban planners are often the people responsible for the success or failure of a community: things like whether there are footpaths, and corner shops to walk to on those footpaths, and playgrounds and high density housing estates…all of these things dictate the type of people that the area will attract, and determine how they live their lives in it.
I have much to think about here, and I’d love to hear what anybody else has to say on the subject. But one thing is for sure: when our communities are becoming more limited and insular, and when Facebook and Twitter (where we choose who is part of our community) replace parks and footpath exchanges, we all need to get out to great cafes more, and drink more coffee.
I agree. My best conversation were in good coffee shops. Free time, similar hobbies and coffee. A good combination. I like your thoughts.
Thanks. I think the artists in 19th Century Paris knew what they were doing with all that time in coffee shops. Kind of like Facebook before the internet : )
Like what you said. Any suggestions or thoughts on how to politely start conversation with intelligent people we would like to connect with in a chance encounter like at a coffee shop when you are inadvertently “eavesdropping” and find the speaker interesting and would like to hear more without being impolite and intruding overmuch?
HAHA…no, sorry. Except that next time I’m just going to risk looking like an idiot and just go for it. What have we got to lose? A bit of pride? In an ideal world I would have given this guy a business card with my email and blog address on it (which I don’t have…yet) and asked if we could connect on line and discuss it further. Good luck next time it happens to you.
nice…what happens out in the world that is necessary is…intimate connections…even hearing a story by a person at a table in back of you is more intimate than most of what happens in e-mails, facebook or twitter…conversation and sitting on a deck or a lawn or in a coffee shop gives us the closeness we are all seeking…
yeah that’s true about the intimate connection. You pick up so much through the non-verbal stuff, and tone of voice. I so miss that on email. Good thoughts.
This whole post reminds me of a conversation I was having recently about housing; how if Australia’s houses were built to the standards of Germany, for example, there would be far less costs in house maintenance in the long run. It’s strange but nice how you can happen upon different things at seemingly random and they all tie in together! 🙂
As for getting out into cafes, this is something I definitely wouldn’t mind doing more of! Sometimes it’s just nice to get out and away from computers.
Interesting thoughts there! I love watching the British TV show Grand Designs, and how so many of the houses that are featured are not only self-sufficient energy-wise but are made from recycled materials or resources I never would have thought of. I’d love to her more about how other countries do housing better.
Same! I remember actually that this type of housing was discussed during the environmental sociology course that I did. It involved double-glazed windows, mudbricks, stragetically angled to get the most sun, solar panels, veggie gardens and different things like that. It was very cool 🙂
I don’t know if it’s Grand Designs or other shows I see, but I love seeing how other countries do housing as well 🙂
Love this….random encounters with total strangers can instantly brighten up my day…I worked in a kids store last summer and was having one of those fed up with life mornings…you know where your hair is (yet again) defying gravity your boyfriend is being cranky and the sky refuses to be any colour whatsoever…Anyway this little boy came behind the counter plopped himself down and asked could him and Bob sit there a while…”Is Bob your imaginary friend?” I asked noticing him telling the space beside him to sit still, he looked up at me like I was completely mad and said “there’s no such thing as imaginary friends dummy! Bobs invibsable!!” ( my mistake) The three of us proceeded to have a five minute chat that left me grinning until lunch 🙂
Claire that’s wonderful! Love it!!!! That story will keep me grinning all morning as well. Thanks for sharing it.