Finding comfort in Crowded Cafes and Bad Service

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One of the things that I immediately found very bothersome about Paris were the crowded cafes. You know – people’s hot, and not always fresh, breath upon your neck. Intimate brushes of parts of your body with total strangers. Legs forced into very gentle and intimate caress with those of countless strangers. That kind of crowdedness and uninvited intimacy . It felt all too invasive.

And then, there is the whole thing about chairs facing the street. This I did not get.Squeezed tightly together,the cafes literally force you to watch and gossip about people. Therefore, I generally left cafes feeling a bit dirty and violated – and with a slightly guilty feeling of unjust comments from my mouth about complete undeserving passers by. Wicked institutions, these cafes were!

Well, part of all of this also has to do with my own mild to severe forms of periodic paranoia coupled with a Catholic sense of guilt – but that’s another story.

Fast forward to last Sunday.

It occurs to me that the concept of overcrowded cafes has grown on me – and did I mention the appalling service? (This was another source of culture shock, the sometimes very gorgeous waiters who generally make you feel guilty for bothering them). I now find it an important part of the charm of the cafe experience. Waiters playing hide and seek for thirty minutes with my bill? I now call that cute and playful. (I AM being a bit sarcastic here)

Anyhow, so Sunday night, my spouse and I go out for a Chocolat Viennois, to ease into a week of term-paper submissions and deadlines. And, somewhere between admiring the attractive waiters, exchanging notes on a bizarre event on Friday (in which we found ourselves locked in an antique shop), discussing the future of the Eurozone and pompous academic reflections – it occurred to me that crowded cafes and bad service have begun to take on a comforting familiarity. Not only have I become tolerant of it, I actively seek it out to find strength for a week of grueling post graduate dissertation writing. It is funny how quickly one’s taste change!

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