I have traded in a water cooler for decaf lattes with skim.
Instead of a cubicle, I share my space: six laptops to a hulking wooden table with many knots.
I have different co-workers every day, though some are recurring.
We play music in our "office" from the early morning to late in the evening.
And as we first sit and make eye contact, we introduce ourselves by way of timid smile. Sometimes, we eventually get to sharing ideas. Eyes peering over laptop screens.
We are all entrepreneurs of some kind. I have found mostly artists and creators.
I never knew that clocking into a cafe every day would bring the benefit of new contacts. New ideas. Before, when working in a public space, I would plug into my iphone, listen to my own music, and do my best to shut everyone out. I'm not sure what I missed then. Now I like seeing those around me. Hearing about their passions and visions. Sharing mine. Talking every day about Swirl - as I am working to develop my ideas - is extremely helpful. Each time, I try a slightly new configuration of words. Phrases. Trying to explain exactly what we aim to do. The reactions, the energy, and the ideas I get in return help me to mold, tweak, and improve what I am saying. My new co-workers give me new ideas to work through.
This morning, I met Lisa. I had been sitting at the big shared table by myself when she laid her laptop down and smiled a good morning. I remembered her from yesterday afternoon. She immediately walked away to bring someone from behind the counter over to our table to clear away the left behind New York Times pages, mugs, and breakfast plates from previous visitors. She talked about how she was obsessive about clean spaces as she wiped the table down. I laughed and said that I wanted to take a mini vacuum cleaner to the crevices in the table. I pointed to the long line of crumbs, poppy seeds, and sesame seeds relaxing in the deep lines of the wood. She said, "What do you do?" My vacuum dream was a sign of something for her. I said "community organizing" and a wide grin spread across her face. "Fantastic. Fantastic. This is fantastic for so many reasons..." she said.
She went on to tell me that she is a curator and is working on a performance project that looks at African American spirituals. We talked about the connections between art, music, and culture. And she wondered if a "post-identity" future was possible. We discussed America's current challenges with inequity and talked about the achievement gap, institutional racism, and the importance of cross-cultural dialogue. If it's possible to talk about racism and identity without a moment's notice - with a complete stranger in a cafe - I know that bringing communities together in order to have these conversations is possible.
She said, "People are so divided and our communities are fractured. What we really need is for people to come together to explore their commonalities."
I smiled as I thought to myself:
This is what Swirl is about.
And this is what she and I are doing right this very moment.