I nibble contently on my salad, sip my wine, and watch the stream of humanity passing by. Everyone in the café is speaking in such low tones the ambient sound is like the soft rumbling of distant thunder. I am slipping into a deep relaxation, feeling like a cat on a windowsill.

I can’t help noticing a handsome couple to my right. The waiter comes to their table only when they pause in their conversation. How thoughtful. Perhaps this waiter would rather submit to the guillotine than to bother them. Who knows? They might be falling in love.

le café

le café

Ah yes, the beauty of a French café is that waiters leave you alone. They give you time to ruminate, dream and create. Can you imagine Gustav Flaubert sitting in a café, writing his masterpiece, Madame Bovary, while a waiter keeps bugging him with “Do you want more bread?”

Paris is woven with daydreams of creativity in her fabric. Literature, music, art—such great ideas have been conceived in Parisian cafés—the incubators of genius.

With my glass and salad plate now empty, my mind drifts aimlessly as I contemplate my existence. I dream that I am creating the most exemplary novel of the 21st century.

After an hour and a half of this lovely-Parisian-café-induced reverie, the sun has set and I must move on. I motion to the waiter for l’addition (the check). He nods. Ah, I have communicated my desire by simply raising my finger. Wonderful. But then I don’t see him for fifteen minutes. I catch his eye again. He nods. He goes to every table in the room but mine. I’ve been left alone with my thoughts now for almost two hours.

I’m no Flaubert—I just want to stand up and see if my legs still work.

Finally, he comes with the check. I pull out my Visa card and he says “Ah!” and rushes away. My heart sinks. But in a moment, he returns with a small, hand-held credit card machine. How clever! He runs it at the table, I sign the receipt, and I’m free.