Rainy Afternoon

It’s a gray day here in the city of 100 spires, the air chilly but not freezing, perhaps 5C or so. I’ll be meeting up with fuego later to watch the Czechs take the ice against the Finns, but in the meantime I find myself outside my usual neighborhood. I let my feet guide me. I passed up on the Zlatý Had (Golden Snake), traveled one more block and now I am sitting now in Kavárna V sebém nebi. It’s a very pleasant place. I’m sitting by the window, watching as the world drifts past outside — pretty girls with colorful umbrellas, workers in coveralls hunched over with cigarettes clamped firmly between stoic lips, baby carriages with elaborate clear plastic rain covers.

There was something else that it took me a while to put my finger on, but now I have it. They make the coffee quietly here. I think we’ve managed to somehow deafen ourselves to it, but the modern coffee house is a very noisy place. The grinders are noisy, and the steam valve makes a racket. Now I’m sitting here as the guy behind the bar is very quietly steaming up a latté (or whatever it is one steams up), and now that I know it’s possible to make coffee without making noise, I am all the more perplexed by people’s tolerance of all those other loud places.

Right now the music is a funky, almost calypso cover of “Smoke on the Water”. The conversation around me is muted as well, since there is little background noise to compete with. When I got here I was the only one (at least on the ground floor), but other customers have arrived in a steady stream. They know each other, that much is obvious, and the mood is brightening even as the day gets darker.

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