I leave my place on the Upper West Side. It's about 30 degrees with blue skies and the sun over the horizon of the surrounding buildings - one of those nice, clear winter days when the glare doesn't blind you. I'm wearing brown leather shoes with blue jeans, a white T-shirt and an olive green button-up shirt. I'm also carrying a fairly heavy backpack. I'm headed eventually to do some work on the East Side, so I'm freshly shaved and presentably attired.
I go to the convenience store across the street to buy a Coke Zero. The front door has a copy of Paris Match in the window with a cover article titled "L'homme de l'annee" over a picture of Barack Obama with wife and kids in tow. Inside, three pre-teen boys peruse the snack rack and discuss how much they like Doritos. I pay $1.50 for the soda, then head out and walk north to Cosi, a coffee shop and sandwich place on Broadway between 77th and 78th Streets.
I arrive at Cosi and sit down in the middle of the large room on a couch. The coffee here is terrible and the food overpriced, so I don't buy anything. The place is about three-quarters full, with a typical selection of Upper West Side retirees and other random sorts. There's a soundtrack of inoffensive, soft rock playing. I spend the next 12 minutes writing about my experiences thus far.
On my right, there's a young couple having an iced coffee and a Snapple. The man has finished his sandwich. At the table in front of me, there's a young woman with bleached blond hair. She's going over some documents in a folder and also drinking iced coffee. On my left, two ladies in their 50s/60s are talking in a foreign language but too softly for me to identify it. I start reading Monday's New York Times.
The woman to my front leaves.
The women to my left leave.
I try to read an article about Caroline Kennedy, maybe the 10th or 50th that's appeared on the front page in the past two months, but I can't get through it. I've decided lately to try to limit my periodical reading only to things I truly feel will give me something I want to know.
The couple on my right leave. On my left and a bit ahead, there's a man in grayish khakis and a tie sitting in a booth. He was alone before, but he's been joined by a teenage boy dressed in a white T-shirt, jeans and sneakers. At one point, I hear the man defining the term "Pyrrhic victory.". I'm reasonably sure he's a college counselor and is talking about the boy's application essay.
Now the counselor is talking about writing good transition sentences. Everybody likes a good transition. One of the employees, wearing khakis and a nice tan vest is mopping the floor.
Several seats in front of me are two middle-aged men. They've spent the last half hour talking and drinking coffee, but now they're sitting side by side and peering at a laptop. I move behind them and discover that they're looking at a bunch of photos that have been uploaded. I feel sneaky, like a nosy spy.
The counselor is now sitting next to the teenager and looking at bubble sheets and a standardized test book. A slender, young Asian woman is seated to my left looking at her e-mail on her laptop. Also on my left is a woman in her 50s wearing a thick coat and eating a cup of soup. A waiter comes to pick up the leftover food and tray left by the couple to my right.
A woman in her 60s with dyed brown hair, a young woman with black hair and knee-high black boots and a boy of about 8 wearing a Spider-Man wool winter hat sit down on my right. They're speaking in a foreign language, maybe Russian or a similar Slavic tongue. I think they're probably staying at the hotel a half block to the south.
The foreigners move to a different table. I begin reading an article about detainees at Guantanamo Bay.
I finish the article. A woman in her late 20s has sat down to my right. She's drinking coffee and surfing the net on a laptop.
I being reading an article about military recruitment
I finish the article and start reading one about what Obama likes to read.
I finish the article and leave Cosi, walking north to 79th Street to catch the crosstown bus, the M70.
I get on the bus at Broadway with 20 others, almost all of them elderly.
The bus starts moving, and I start reading the Times again. I read articles about Gaza, the McCain-Obama relationship, and the pending stimulus plan.
I get off the bus at 79th and Third Avenue and walk to the Yorkville Branch of the New York Public Library to return two overdue books. I pay $2 in late fees and then sit down in the foyer, where a man is reading a copy of the Daily News. On the cover is a picture of Obama with the header "His Time." On the back is another Obama picture, but he's holding a baby this time and the headline screams "The Future In His Hands." There's a "Collector's Edition" of Ebony on the table to my right, with a picture of Obama and the words "Mr. President" and "Person of the Year."
I leave the library and walk to Second Avenue.