Coffee and conversation

My search for togetherness while social distancing


Madison Geering

Senior Madison Geering’s cup of coffee accompanied by Calmed By Nature ambience music. This link is visited frequently by Geering along with thousands of other viewers.

Yesterday morning, 2,000 of my closest friends and I visited our favorite café. We sipped coffee, exchanged life stories and enjoyed the ambient, smooth jazz drifting through the air.

Did I forget to mention that I’ve never actually met any of these people… and that our favorite café is actually just an eight hour video with a lovely café illustration and great music?

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, one of my most cherished pastimes was to go to local coffee shops. I would do homework, read a book or listen to live music, enveloped in the eternally comforting aroma of coffee. I fell in love with all of the familiar strangers who also frequented the shops, never speaking to them, but sharing an implicit camaraderie.

Us patrons can still grab a latte on the go, but, with the current circumstances, we can no longer people-watch for hours on end, curled up on the corner couch. My heart aches for the days when we could do just that. Sometimes I wonder about those familiar strangers, and how they’re doing.

In the absence of real coffee shops to visit, I have been lounging around at a different venue: YouTube. I have bookmarked several cafe ambience videos by the channel Calmed By Nature. These videos are usually several hours long and consist of jazz instrumentals, the sound of raindrops on windows, and detailed animated illustrations of cozy coffee shops.

I’ll usually play these videos in the background as I drink my morning coffee while reading a book, trying to recreate the feeling that I miss. If I close my eyes it almost feels like how it used to be.

But there’s one thing missing: the people.

So I scroll down the comments section to see if there’s anyone else out there in the world, feeling the same type of loneliness as me. And, in fact, there are 2,000 people who miss the atmosphere of coffee shops the same way I do.

People from all over the country gush about how beautiful the video’s illustration is, how much they love the music and how their day is going. Each comment is acknowledged with several wholesome replies, including many from Calmed By Nature themself. The ‘conversation’ is refreshing.

It’s comforting to be in the company of delightful, familiar strangers again.

Mohammed Alkhaldy says to “every one who’s listening to this, coffee is on me.” Hannah Clarke “cried when the music started playing. [She] didn’t realize how much [she] missed being free to watch the world go by.” When DJ Weidman was “stationed in Yokosuka, Japan, there was a small upstairs café in the Ginza called the Blue Note” that the animation reminded him of.

I read further down in the comments section everyday, yearning to hear the stories of people that I’ve never met, chuckle at their jokes or empathize with their feelings. I’d never noticed how happy it made me to interact with random people on a daily basis. Smiling at them on the way to the store, sharing the WiFi password with each other at one of those many cafes and knowing that there were so many human beings in the world with such beautifully diverse lives.

Things are far from normal right now, but it helps to know you’re not alone. After reading those comments and listening to the ambience music, I’ve felt more peaceful than I have in a while.

And now I’ve got 2,000 new friends who feel the same way.