It is dark and raining out. I mind the dark short days at this time of year more than I mind the cold. As long as I have blue sky, regardless of the temperature, I feel I can deal with a change of seasons.
I am attending my first Snail Mail function at a coffee shop. It is convenient as on my bus route. It is not in the best area of town but is on a main street that runs through the city. I have been reading their Facebook page and commenting and liking for some months. See this post Handwritten letters anyone for further explanation.
The coffee shop, where the gathering is being held, is not a chain with glass tiles, leather chairs and chrome tables. It is a standalone coffee shop that is also a backpacking hostel. I enter and pull my hood down, it is dark with minimal light in the space. An older man sits by the door, the coffee bar is off to the right. There are mismatched chairs and tables that I walk by looking for someone who looks to be writing, drawing or making cards. I continue to walk to the back and see a stairway that I head up. I see bedrooms and a small kitchen and realize I have ventured into the backpacking space. It is dark and not overly inviting but still brings back happy memories for me dropping my backpack on a bed, meeting someone new, and finding out who and where are they from and where are they going. I head back downstairs realizing I am so not where I should be.
When I round the corner I see a young woman at a table by herself with paper in front of her. We introduce ourselves and yes she is the founder of the Snail Mail Society. She is making cards and points to a table against the wall with supplies ranging from paper, pens, markers and punches. As I grab some paper and a punch to make stars I look around. The lights are still dim but I see other people sitting and talking. I realize that no one here is on a laptop or phone. Everyone is actually talking to the person in front of them, not texting, searching the internet or on the phone. They are present and communicating face-to-face. Even those people alone are just looking around not distracted by social media/equipment.
I continue to make my card, get up and get some markers for color. The young lady says she lives near here and choose this coffee shop for the atmosphere. When I walked in the door I would have stopped short at that – atmosphere? Dark and out-dated? But looking around I see it now – there is nothing artificial here, people are here because it is safe and they will not be judged. It is their place.
Before I got on the bus to come down I debated and then thought why not? Walking in alone was a bit scary, I knew no one and it wasn’t a part of town I frequented. The place looked run-down and confirmed what I thought when I took the bus by on first impression. It wasn’t until I sat down and became part of the place that I realized I had made assumptions without having all the facts. This is a neat place, not your cookie-cutter chain. They let the Snail Mail Society set up a table with supplies for people to use. People were comfortable here – and I have to admit it was nice to see no laptops, phones or tablets just people talking or sitting. A place to make a card, write a letter and have a coffee.
So step out of your comfort zone. Is there a place you drive or walk by that you have always wanted to see inside? Check out an independent coffee shop or small store – you might be pleasantly surprised. Open the door, dim lighting or not and step inside. You never know what you will find or what you have been missing.