Ode to coffee shops
Congratulations in advance to our (former) interns who've finished taking the Medical Boards yesterday. Here's a story that appears in Lydia Davis's collection, "Varieties of Disturbance"—an interesting take on coffee shops, where they've spent much of their time studying.
(Listen to James Wood, book critic of The New Yorker, read the story, if your eyes are tired.)
For Sixty Cents
You are in a Brooklyn coffee shop, you have ordered only one cup of coffee, and the coffee is sixty cents, which seems expensive to you. But it is not so expensive when you consider that for this same sixty cents you are renting the use of one cup and saucer, one metal cream pitcher, one plastic glass, one small table, and two small benches. Then, to consume if you want to, besides the coffee and the cream, you have water with ice cubes and, in their own dispensers, sugar, salt, pepper, napkins, and ketchup. In addition, you can enjoy, for an indefinite length of time, the air-conditioning that keeps the room at a perfectly cool temperature, the powerful white electric light that lights every corners of the room so that there are no shadows anywhere, the view of the people passing outside on the sidewalk in the hot sunlight and wind, and the company of the people inside, who are laughing and turning endless variations on one rather cruel joke at the expense of a little balding red-headed woman sitting at the counter and dangling her crossed feet from the stool, who tries to reach out with her short, white arm and slap the face of the man nearer to her.