Almost every day of my life, I go to the same coffee shop, sit at the same table, and write stuff on the internet.
I like to see new people every day.
It helps stimulate my “writing brain.” I love to watch random people and make up stories about them.
But just as often, the faces I see are familiar. They’re people just like me who come to the coffee shop all of the time.
Instead of talking to these people and learning their names and life stories…I’ve made up my own weird names and stories for them. And I don’t plan on ever learning the truth.
Here now are some made-up stories about some very real people.
The Cool Hat Lady
The Cool Hat Lady (CHL) has a vast, perhaps infinite number of Cool Hats.
They’re big billowing knit caps, and they go well with the rest of her ensemble. They come in all different colors, but they’re all around the same size. I often wonder if she makes all of them, or if she found them at some kind of Cool Hat Emporium.
Sometimes CHL won’t wear a hat, revealing that she has very close-shaved hair underneath. I make myself sad wondering if she was a cancer patient. But it could also just be that way as a neat style.
Maybe it’s both.
She pulls it off with aplomb. CHL cares about fashion in a way I couldn’t hope to comprehend even with a lifetime of study.
She’s always dressed for a party that isn’t happening. Her phone lives in a well-designed handmade fabric case. Her planner does as well.
When I arrive at the coffee shop in the morning, CHL is sitting out in her car, wistful, looking into the distance.
When she comes inside, she always sits by herself… and looks into the distance.
It’s like she’s always posing for a photograph that no one ever takes.
The Brain Trust
The Brain Trust is a group of 5–8 guys who come in once a week. They’re all older dudes, and they all retired from local tech companies.
They’re the sort of group that every coffee shop loves for their regular business…but loathes for their ability to cause seating chaos. The Brain Trust always tries to get the single Big Table in the café, and they always move it or rotate it or in some way shunt it into the aisle. Then, they steal a bunch of chairs from the other tables.
They remake the coffee shop in their image.
Once that clattering is over and I’m left with no place to put my backpack, the Great Discussion begins. They talk about all the news stories of the day, declaring everyone but themselves to be stupid…and then they get into their Big Ideas.
“I want to be able to carry my silverware with me…ALL OF THE TIME!”
“I think I’m going to invent a newspaper that’s filled with coffee. That’d be cool. ”
“Tablets are the FUTURE! I saw a guy with a tablet the other day. It’s all driven by data now!”
“All of the EXPANSION is to the south. That’s where I’m going to build my boathouse!”
The Brain Trust convenes week in and week out, rain or shine, and if they ever do even a tenth of the things they’re planning to do…the world will be a different place.
I can say I was there when it all started.
Orange Hoodie Guy
Orange Hoodie Guy is the lone person on this list who goes to the coffee shop as much as I do, and the one who will sometimes acknowledge me with a single nod.
He used to be a Business Warrior. He would bring an entire office to the coffee shop, with a full mouse and keyboard setup attached to his laptop, taking up a massive amount of space.
I had nothing but respect for him over this…but now he’s trimmed the setup down. He just brings the laptop. It’s not as fun.
I call him Orange Hoodie Guy because he’s always wearing the exact same Orange Hoodie, advertising out-of-state college sports team. It’s always in the same immaculate shape, too.
I can’t decide if he’s just got one that he takes obsessive care of, or if he’s got a whole closet full of the things.
Orange Hoodie Guy never seems to be stationery, either. Every time I notice him, he’s walking by, sometimes still working on his laptop.
He’s a man on the move.
Confident Cool Teenager
Confident Cool Teenager graduated from high school about a year and a half ago… and she makes me feel like an old potato.
She has more confidence in her little finger than the entire population of the rest of the city combined. She over-exudes confidence in every second of her life, to the point where it hits you in the face.
She could bottle her confidence, sell it, and become an overnight millionaire.
Instead of this brilliant business idea, Cool Teenager sits alone working on knitting products for her successful etsy shop.
Once in a great while she’s at the café with a friend, lecturing them about how to be more confident while they look on in mild terror.
I’ve talked to Cool Teenager a single time.
She asked me to watch her stuff once while she went to the bathroom.
I felt honored.
I have nothing but respect for her ability to confidence through all the things. She’s going to be a motivational speaker some day.
Or the leader of etsy.
Fake Bill Gates
Fake Bill Gates is a menace.
He always tries to steal my favorite table and I’m convinced he does this on purpose and with evil intent. When I get there first and he’s forced to sit at the counter, I feel a weird sense of satisfaction.
When I get there after him, he has a devilish grin on his face.
I call him Fake Bill Gates because he looks sort of like Bill Gates and he’s always working on an old Windows laptop. I have no idea if he’s a programmer or what, but I don’t trust him.
I feel like someday he might be my nemesis.
If you’re reading this right now Fake Bill Gates, I can see you through this screen and I’m on to you!
The Pilots are a group of three dudes that come in every day to study and someday become pilots.
I guess… I guess that means my name for them isn’t accurate but I’m sticking with it.
They always have about a million books and laptops, including several copies of FAR AIM, the federal aviation manual. There’s a pilot school just down the road.
The weirdest thing about The Pilots is that they will form to the shape of the available space, like a liquid. Whether they end up sitting together or not, it doesn’t seem to impact them. They’ll take three individual, orphaned chairs if they have to and not even care.
One time they were having a conversation right behind me, and one of their butts was very close to the side of my face.
I imagine someday they’ll stop coming in, and then I’ll assume they succeeded and are now piloting.
The MacBook Women
The MacBook Women are two college students who come sit at the counter to study, and they both own 12-inch MacBooks.
They’re the reason that I decided to want a MacBook in the first place. I had no interest in what I imagined was a vanity device…but they looked SO COOL in person.
I had never seen a 12-inch MacBook close up until I saw them studying with them.
I should thank them some day for allowing me to sit nearby and gawk at their computers…but that’s an awkward thing to say out loud, so nevermind.
The Over-Familiar Older Lady
You’ve perhaps noticed how ridiculous and descriptive these “names” are by now.
I can’t come up with “real” names for people I don’t know. It’s hard for me to do in writing fiction, and even harder in real life.
Like, I’m not going to call someone “Melissa” if their name isn’t Melissa.
The OFOL acts like we’ve known each other for years even though we haven’t and sometimes says flirty things at me.
One day I was getting out of my car and she was nearby and shouted “Your tires are LOOKING GOOD!”
I said thank you.
Another time I was getting my drink at the counter, and she was near the garbage can. She said “And Good Morning to YOU!”
I blinked and said good morning.
Maybe I do know her and I’ve forgotten who she is, but I like to imagine she’s just this nice to everyone and tries to make peoples’ days better by baffling them with kindness.
I’d love it if even one of these folks had a weird nickname for me.
I could be “Guy That Always Wears Different Headphones,” or “Guy That Drinks Iced Coffee Even When It’s Cold Out,” or something.
Most people go to work in an office-style environment every day and know actual people with actual names and actual lives. I see the same people every day while writing at a coffee shop and make up stories about them.
If I worked in an office, I’d still make up fake names for my co-workers because maybe I’m horrible.
“Hi Alex, we’ve had some weird complaints.”
Oh, what’s up?
“Well, one of your co-workers says you won’t call him by his name and insist on referring to him as The Man with the Tiny Thin Tie?”
I mean of course I call him that. Have you seen his tie? It’s like a pencil! Where did he even get that? I asked him where I could get one and he refused to tell me. He even showed me where he had cut the tag off so that no one else could know! From that day on, I knew the name had to stick.
I don’t even want to wear a thin tie, but that guy dedicated his life to his whole tiny tie lifestyle so I can’t think of him in any other way.
“You’ve forgotten his real name and you’re too embarrassed to ask now, right?”