Walk into Houndstooth Coffee on North Lamar in Austin on any given afternoon and the scene looks pretty average. A friendly barista takes orders at the counter, the familiar sound of the coffee grinder whirs in the background and clusters of people study and chat over cups of steaming java.
If it’s a Monday or Thursday at 1:30 p.m., things might look a little different. The atmosphere changes when a group of 6-7 people gather around the rectangular white table in the center of the room, alternately smelling or sipping through a series of cups of coffee. Patrons sneak glances at the group as their heads bob up and down like chickens pecking at feed, sniffing and slurping coffee and engaging in caffeinated discussion. MORE
When I studied abroad in Rome a few years ago, my travel packet included a primer for ordering espresso from the little museum café around the corner from our classrooms. To begin with, we were warned, don’t order espresso, a term which refers to a technique and not a beverage. Instead order caffè — short for caffè espresso, there’s no other kind — and embellish the word with lyrical phrases to indicate how long to let water seep through pressed grounds and how much milk to add and when.
I usually don’t make much conversation in cabs, but this cab driver had many questions. What kind of music did I want to listen to? He thought I might prefer one station if I was going to a club, another if headed to a date. Was I going on a date? Ah, a double date. Did I know the other couple well? Going to a nice dinner?
I fell quiet after this deposition, but after a few minutes of cruising downtown in the rain, the driver surprised me with another question. “What is the alphabet of dating?” he asked.