So I am sitting at a window table in one of the hinterland outlet pods of the evil Starbuckian Empire. I am waiting for the caffeine molecules to clear customs at the blood-brain barrier, and help bring my shabby, wandering thoughts into focus. In the meantime, random ideas dart and flicker about my sleepy head.
Outside the window, a car is driving by with its interior light on. It is moving like a bright, radioactive particle through the arteries of the city. I have my laptop open, and for no particular reason I am looking at streaming video footage of those strange, glowing fish that live in the deepest trenches of the ocean. I want to see those fish in real time. I want to be enclosed in a diving bell, and sink and sink and sink until I find myself in a strange new world, surrounded by luminous wonders.
I wonder, for instance, what the world would be like today without the discovery of caffeine. Would the world be much the same as it is now? Would the sidewalks be filled with people walking blindly into each other, the roadways filled with crashed and abandoned vehicles? Would we all be wandering about like lost souls, carrying empty Styrofoam cups and travel mugs, permanently distracted by the vague feeling that there is something missing from our lives?
I wonder how much money I have spent in my life on coffee and tea. Too much, obviously. Money that could have been put to other, better, and more interesting purposes. I could have saved that money and donated it to a family who really need it. I could have built and paid for the running of a community hall in a small fishing village somewhere. I could have travelled to Prague, or the Arctic Circle, sponsored a tango competition, or commissioned a papier-mâché sculpture of Susan Musgrave. I could have built a boat, or paid for a friend to take flying lessons.
I am thinking that the bearded, heavy-set man at the table next to mine is particularly intriguing. He is wearing what is obviously an expensively cut suit of what appears to be raw silk the colour of the Atlantic Ocean at twilight. He has a red power tie, and a gold watch that I am convinced cost as much money as my lifetime’s coffee consumption.
He could be a senior executive with a multinational chemical manufacturer, in town for the morning to oversee the cover-up of a sinister airborne toxic event. He could be a lawyer, a diplomat, or a world-class assassin. Incongruously, bizarrely, he is holding an Asterix comic book, and peering at its pages with rapt attention. I have no frame of reference that can explain this anomaly, which is something that makes me unaccountably, momentarily happy.