I pedaled over to the Intelligentsia coffee shop on Abbott-Kinney because with a name like that I was sure I could snag a nook, grab a cup of coffee, and nurse the espresso for a couple of hours while I read a book.
Just to make sure I’d blend in, I checked Wikipedia before I left to make sure I was going to the right place, and lo:
The intelligentsia (/ɪnˌtelɪˈdʒentsiə/) (Latin: intelligentia, Polish: inteligencja, Russian: интеллигенция, tr.intelligensiya, IPA: [ɪntʲɪlʲɪˈɡʲentsɨjə]) is a status class of educated people engaged in the complex mental labours that critique, guide, and lead in shaping the culture and politics of their society.
Imagine my surprise when I got there and saw not a single person reading a book, and not a single person who appeared to be engaging in any mental labors at all, much less complex ones. Half the people were boring into their phones, half were boring into their laptops, and the third half was looking at the other two halves and hoping someone would notice their casually thrown-together, perfectly mismatched artisanally grown jeans and poncho with orange Converse All-Stars.
I got my espresso, wedged into a corner, and took out my book. I could feel the eyes rolling. It’s okay to be pretentious in a pretentious coffee shop with the most pretentious name ever, but a book? Really? There. Are. Limits.
No one in Intelligentsia was intelligenting with anyone else, and it seemed that no one could stand to be there for more than about twenty minutes, eighteen of which were spent waiting in line. Delicate coffees that elegantly attired baristas who had trained for ten years just to make minimum wage pulling that one perfect espresso shot were inhaled, the cups clattered aside, and the impatient patrons stomped out.
After a couple of hours the space next to me opened up again for the fourth or fifth time. My espresso was still only half-drunk and cold as the chill outdoors. A very pretty woman and her jealous girlfriend waltzed in, foppish boyfriend in tow. The jealous girlfriend had eyes on the boy, who only had eyes for his girlfriend.
The intelligentsia began to discourse.
He: “This coffee is so awesome and this place is so cool.”
GF: “I love it here. Oh! Look at those shoes!”
JG: “Look at my Instagram!”
He: “That’s so cool!”
GF: “Let me see! Oh, cool! Here, look at this one I just posted. It’s got all our feet!”
He: “That’s so cool!”
JG: “I love that! Guess who just texted me?”
GF: “He’s so hot. Are you dating him?”
JG: “Look at his IG.”
He: “This place is so cool.”
The place was now so packed that people were backed up against our little bench-nook, squeezing by and jostling the tiny table. Girlfriend reached into her purse and pulled out a beautiful, petite leather strap with a gold key ring on the end. “Look what I got at the leather shop! On sale–$150!” It still had the tag on it, and she hadn’t transferred her keys over to it yet.
Jealous Girlfriend handled it, stroked it, and her eyes sparkled with greed. Then she laid it back down on the table and the three of them hunched back over Girlfriend’s phone as she scrolled them through a mutual frenemy’s IG feed. “She’s such a bitch!” the two women cackled.
There were so many people and there was so much noise that I had fallen into ultra-concentration reading mode, where I read and comprehended one word at a time.
Out of the corner of my eye I saw Jealous Girlfriend palm the leather key ring as the three of them mooed in disgust at another execrable post by the frenemy. Then, like the practiced thief she probably was, Jealous Girlfriend slipped it into her purse.
Another fifteen minutes went by and the crush finally thinned out. The three of them got ready to go and Girlfriend noticed her key ring was gone. “Oh my god! What happened to my key ring?”
The three of them searched frantically beneath the table and around the bench and stools. “Somebody must have swiped it while we were looking at my phone!”
Girlfriend was outraged and aghast.
At that moment the boyfriend stared at me, who was clearly the most suspicious person in the whole place, reading a BOOK and not even finished with a thimbleful of coffee. Plus, I was an old man, and likely a dirty one at that, and even more disgusting, clean-shaven. I ignored him.
After a few more minutes of suspicion and scorn and dirty looks, they left.
Eventually I did, too.
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