This place might give me dysentery but I really need the acoustics

There are two kinds of crowded places. Yesterday I was sipping iced coffee with sweet milk in the most aesthetically plain cafe, as decorated as a vacant shop in a suburban mall. Last time they served me fried rice full of bone shards.

But it’s the good kind of crowded. It moves  like a busy diner — quick quick, chop chop, no nonsense, shutyerface, it’s comin’. Also, there is wit. The wait staff was really amused that I’d showed up and asked for coffee. I was so, so tall! They all took turns comparing their heights to mine, laughing and wisecracking. And then they brought me noodle soup and an iced coffee with sweet milk.

Bad kind of crowded? The theme parks of Orlando, Florida. We went to Disney World the summer I was 13, the summer of frizzy hair and braces. I just wanted to eat ice cream in the hotel and watch Saved by the Bell, and I hated Cinderalla for her silky-smooth tresses. Thankfully the Universal Studios tour was marginally more tolerable, and it is here that I learned of the crowd walla.

According to our guides, the “crowd walla” is the background noise you hear in restaurants while the main characters in a television show are talking. It’s not real dialogue. It’s people pretending to eat and saying the same stuff over and over so it seems like they are talking. Although actual Hollywood may not really do this, our guides said they were all saying “peas and carrots peas and carrots” over and over. We, the visitors to this portion of the park, practiced doing a crowd walla for an episode of Murder, She Wrote. Peas and carrots, peas and carrots.

Yesterday in the cafe when I looked around and realized where I was, there was absolutely no reason for me to be there. Yeah, I really need to eat. And this place was cheap and close to where I live. But it also had absolutely nothing to suggest it as superior to any of the million places around it. Instead I was drawn in by its hive-ness. Businessmen chatting and reading the paper, teenagers slouching on their motos out front and throwing tiny green fruits at each other, waiters and waitresses rolling their eyes and calling orders across the room. It had a killer crowd walla.

What is it about this; this background hum that seems necessary for me to think? I can write better; like maybe I’m pulling words from the air and putting them together, recycling old vibrations into new language. Maybe it’s just less lonely, and more lonely, all at once. Maybe it’s the ability to exist as a loose electron orbiting an otherwise strong force, and watch without watching, and listen without listening. Peas and carrots, peas and carrots.

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