I’m not good at picking places to meet – for coffee, for dinner, or to exchange artwork and catch up with a friend I haven’t seen in real life for 25 years.
When my husband drags us along, completing his travel-based project across the country on 2-week road trips, it falls on me to find places to eat along the way. Thank the technology wizards of Yelp for providing me with so many choices and consequently aiding and abetting in my analysis paralysis … also known as perfection paralysis. I do too much research and then can’t make a decision. I want to find the “best lunch” or the “best smoothies” or the “best artisan ice cream.”
I used to be anally selective for doctors, but with Yelp at my fingertips, I can read all 654 reviews before deciding where to get a sandwich for lunch. It gets entirely consuming; too many choices, too many opinions. I’m good with a gut feeling but if I’m driving around or need to pick a place to meet up with someone, and the decision falls on me, I will conduct hours of research to find the perfect place for drinks. Incidentally, I don’t drink, but my friends do and I want to make sure I don’t pick a shitty place for us to chat while they drink.
Today I had to find a coffee place to meet a friend. Her instructions couldn’t be crueler, “Name any place you want and I’ll be there.” Oh, the pained pressure.
I was up to my old tricks: googling traffic, scouring Yelp and articulating my ever-indecisive options. My husband audibly sighed to remind me I was acting like the Italian version of my name (crazy chicken). “Fine,” I thought, “I’ll be more spontaneous. My request was simple: a quaint non-Starbucks coffee shop for medium-voice conversation. I organized my Yelp results, with the highest ratings to the top and picked one befitting of all criteria.
I texted my friend the name of the coffee shop and its address. “See you at noon.” I felt bold and brazen, perhaps even a surge of testosterone? It was simple.
My drive was smooth until some traffic forced me off the highway a mile early and forced me four blocks out of the way – and back again – in Manhattan lunchtime traffic. I called my friend (FROM BLUETOOTH) and said I would be late. She mentioned the place I selected may be a bit small. She followed up with a picture of two red stools, which turned out to be the whole quaint establishment. Cozy, but not apropos for large art exchange. She suggested a Starbucks 300 feet away. Fine. She arrived there to find a hiring event, closing off half the store. Next. Eventually, we enjoyed a lovely rendezvous in my car, which featured heat, lovely ambient music, and a phone charger.
Life’s lesson for me should have been to let the quickly-researched solution be successful, not a bust. Instead, my instinctual reaction was, “seeeeeeee, I told you I should have conducted a more thorough analysis of the situation.”
But I reconsidered a bigger lesson. I hadn’t seen my friend in 25 years and we spent three hours catching up on a lifetime. After she got in my car from the rejected Starbucks, we drove around the corner and found free parking, a genuine gift from New York City. Directly in front of our parking spot was a perfect place for lunch, with large wooden tables, loud quintessential New Yorkers, hot coffee and avocado toasts. Perfect found me when forced from the gripping crutch of a computer or phone. I looked up and faced life.