I suppose I should feel awkward or guilty, but hey, it’s a coffee shop.  Know what I mean?  You know … those overheard conversations that make you squirm because you’re pretty sure you shouldn’t have been listening  in, but in a coffee shop, eavesdropping is pretty much mandatory.

Having had my share of these mandatory episodes, two of late hold especial intrigue. The first was a break up …  I think.

The couple came in shortly after me.  I had them mostly tuned out as I corrected papers; however,  lingo that echoed a day spent in a classroom with kids peaked my interest time to time.  The woman was obviously a teacher or a student teacher.  About 45 minutes into their chit chat about their days, especially hers, their voices grew sullen.

“You’re just too passive,” she said.

“Yeah … I know.”  Long pause. “I’m trying to work on that.”

“I just think I need someone who is going to initiate more,” she said.

“Okay … hmmmm …” complete quiet for a long, long moment (it was killing me), ” … maybe you could tell me what that looks like.”

The woman, in very pleasant tones, talked for awhile.  Something about a situation where he didn’t call or check in came up.  Several other events were discussed … apparently this wasn’t a young relationship. Tones were gentle on both sides. The exchange continued back and forth for about 20 minutes. Phrases like,  “I don’t know what else we could do,” grew more frequent.

“Okay … then,” he said after an especially long pause.  “I guess this is it.”

“Yes,” she said, “I’m afraid so.”

They packed up their things.  He walked to her side of the table and helped her out of her seat.  Then, hand in hand, shoulder to shoulder they walked out of the shop.

I know … I’m puzzled too.  It was sweet and sad all at the same time.

The second intrigue is less than a week old.

Having a rough time getting my morning going, I made a last minute decision to pull into a Starbucks and grab a tea.  My chances of not being late looked pretty good with only two people in front of me.

Unfortunately, someone hadn’t shown up for work, so an inexperienced worker fumbled at the cash register.  “Sorry, everyone,” the barista apologized repeatedly.  “I’ll get to you as soon as I can.”

No worries from me. The two high school girls behind me offered free entertainment.

Girl #1 (a girl with the proverbial “hardened look”): “I got 14 hours of sleep last night …  probably had to do with the fact that I was high. But wow.  Most sleep I’ve gotten in a long time.  Honestly, though, I feel trashed.”

Girl #2 (make-up, hair, and clothing more dialed down than the first girl): “Happened to me the last time I was high.  I slept like 13 hours, but, wow … I was so wiped the next day.  It was rough.”

This very matter of fact dialogue went on for a couple of minutes, both recounting numerous other “highs”.

I try not to be naive, but the conversation was disconcerting.  I don’t think either of them was over 15.  “Parents?” I asked myself, as I pondered life the next decade or two if this is the face of Every Day High School in America.

About this time Girl #3 approached.  Still absorbed in my worries about “the downfall of our nation,” I didn’t pay close attention until I heard phrases like, “It will be so fun if you can come.” “We’ll gather up sleeping bags and everyone’s stuff before school starts.”  “Just bring me back the form and you can pay then or when we get there.”

Girl #3 was inviting Girl #2 to an event.  The language of “Youth Church Retreat” was all over this. Feeling a little more optimistic, I listened more closely.

Girl #3 turned to Girl #1, obviously not knowing her very well.  “Hey ..uhm … are you interested? Would you like a brochure.”

Girl #1: “Sure.  What is it, though?’

Girl #3: “It’s called Acquire the Fire.  All these really great bands are in one place … lot’s of kids and churches come.” (I took a group of kids to Acquire the Fire about six years ago.  It offered inspiration and challenge in a language that kids relate to, although, I must say, my ears ache with agony at just the thought of the LOUD, LOUD MUSIC.

The girls all chatted some more and then Girl #3 dismissed herself to head to her first class.

As soon as she left, the first two girls picked up their conversation.

Girl #2: (almost apologetic): “I’m not religious, but this was pretty cool.  I like to study all religions … I’ll probably go again.”

At that point, I glanced at the time, realized that I wasn’t going to get that quick drink, so excused myself out of the line and headed to my car.

The drive to work was thoughtful, contemplative.  Yep …  intrigue abounds at the coffee shop.