Working in Coffeehouse Dept.: The workaday world quits the coffeehouse before nine, leaving late morning for those untethered to the timeclock. I would characterize them as noisy, except that each wave of customers I share this shop with has its own noise level to achieve. And it tends not to be very low.
So I commandeer a coffeehouse table, near one of the few outlets, if my timing is right, and try not to listen to the counterside conversations that snake past as each thicket of customers makes its way from salads and bagels to coffee and payment.
When the noise lulls, I look for the possibility of some disaster having cleared the place – shootist in the parking lot, sudden and total collapse of the economy – but there’s a rhythm to the rises and falls of volume.
Soon enough, my irritation gives way to immersion in the noise of the – there’s no other way to put this – voices in my head, the voices of the characters whose lives I’m limning. I work on a novel, a scene in which a woman who’s just buried her mother meets a man who proves to have been a old friend of the woman. I work on a play, a scene in which a mismatched couple is at comic cross-purposes over the terms of their divorce. And I realize that the voices around me fuel these narratives. I’m not borrowing any of the words I hear; it’s the energy of this noise I hate that comes in such handy.