Here I am in a dull setting. A coffee shop. One trying desperately to be sophisticated and one failing miserably to achieve its imagined ambiance.
Why would an author choose such a drab, noisy corner of a beautiful and picturesque world?
Well frankly, because this drab little corner is one of nostalgia for me. Some of my greatest sentences have been penned . . . or rather, penciled . . . in this place. It is somewhere I can be absolutely certain of no real distraction, simply because there is nothing noteworthy about the people who come here.
No, if I get distracted it is by way of a deliberate interference and usually the fault of a new barista who has not yet been informed of my reclusive habits. Not to say I don’t appreciate the overture and the good intentions behind their concern, but I prefer to be left in my own world.
Today, the invasion of my thoughts is at the fault of a boy, probably 11 years old. I rarely miss my guess and his probing question and eager eyes suit my assumption.
“Why don’t you just type it on a computer?” he asks with pointing gestures to my writing implement, a simple (quality) pencil. “Or use a mechanical pencil? Then you wouldn’t have to sharpen it all the time.” He gestures again, this time to a pile of pencil shavings near my elbow.
I have faced this question before and ordinarily I come up with something polite to say. But today the coffee shop is just too quiet for my tastes and I’d rather have noise that I could drown out instead of being startled out of my seclusion by chattering baristas and ‘literary’ conversations going on across the shop. Unfortunately, this particular kid hit a nerve with his interruption and I showed no mercy as I outlined every reason I had politely rehearsed.
“There is no grace or artistry in a mechanical pencil,” I say with indignation. “Nothing so artless as a plastic tube for writing. It looks more like something a nurse uses on you at the hospital rather than a tool meant for putting words to paper.” I saw the next question rising but I was on a roll and forged ahead. “A pen? No! It is messy and unforgiving. Ah, but a pencil, is elegant, simple, sophisticated, exhibiting modern ingenuity and ancient pride. A pencil is what? Just wood and graphite. Wood you can see anywhere. It is tried and true ancient and modern, useful and decorative. And graphite? Why it exhibits the very essence of writing. A little known thing, little known for the absurd abundance of it. Diamonds are rare and so they are well know. Writing is like graphite, it is abundant and therefore overlooked in its subtle, simple beauty.”
At this point I see I have scared, confused, and alienated the poor boy, so I do the only thing left and toss him my pencil. He accepts it with consternation but seems to be intrigued. So I guess my ill-timed internal fumigation was not a total waste.