Berlin, Germany. In Berlin, there is no black-suited, briefcase-laden, newspaper-toting mass hustle to places like Midtown or Wall Street as there is in Manhattan. There are no full to the gills tube cars heading from calm, residential neighborhoods like Hampstead to the bustling City as in London, no stop-and-go traffic jams of preening 30-somethings crawling to The Loop as in Chicago. Rather, in Berlin, people saunter out of their restored Altbauten long after the sun is high in the sky and the rest of the world has commenced with their long lists of tasks and slate of meetings. Their mid-morning destination is neither courtroom nor bank, not cubicle, boardroom, nor corner office. No, these sleepy-eyed Berliners mount their vintage second-hand cycles and pedal to the local coffee shop, a place where the espresso is strong, the smoking ban is lenient, and the pain au chocolat is einfach klasse.
If breakfasting alone, the proper Berliner is outfitted with a blank book and a blank but studied gaze. The book, typically a Moleskine, is for the free flow of creative thought usually set in motion by the second double espresso. The special gaze is a way of communicating with silent yet impassioned compatriots who cannot manage words as they struggle with the last stand of their daily hangovers. They drink, write, brood, smoke, and feign profound thought. The lone breakfaster is satisfied with this routine; these activities are a daily requisite if he is to gain admission to the highly selective and prestigious Berlin chapter of Cool.
The accompanied breakfaster is less morose but equally unshowered. Haphazard buns dot the room, topping the heads of women in various states of morning undress who have accessorized with the right amount of calculated indifference. They flick their cigarettes with a pretentious air into heavy glass ashtrays and stir latte macchiatos with long silver spoons. Their conversations are held in the low dulcet tones appropriate to the serious matters they discuss: the addresses of secret no-name clubs in Neukölln, impressive Flohmarkt purchases, the best organic bread shops in Prenzlauer Berg. Their conversations are only fully audible when they are bemoaning the FDP, lecturing invisible (and despised) liberals about the importance of the green movement, or praising the powerful spirituality of their latest yoga instructor.
Alone or together, the typical Berliner spends the time spanning from eleven-ish to two-ish ensconced in one or several of these certified activities. When they are sated by the talk, the thought, and the scene, they head over to the pay-what-you-want money jar where a smiling face asks for “a fair contribution." All eyes on the pocketbook, a fair contribution translates to exorbitantly overpriced, a trivial reality that these Berliners cannot be bothered about. Money is a medium of no real importance in their post-post-structural world, after all, and it can't buy happiness.
Wandering out into the midday sun, caffeinated and twenty five euros lighter, another Berlin morning is over. And so these Berliners mount their colorful thin-wheeled cycles once again and set out on their way. As they peddle the few meters home, hand-knit scarves flapping in the breeze, they smile in anticipation. Next on the agenda is the activity at the start of every bright new Berlin day: ein kleines Nickerchen. Yes indeed, a little nap.