The sounds at a cafe’: Brains on fire


Just having a coffee at Starbucks and catching the vibes around with Matt Murdock-like heightened senses. And this is what I hear.

A feverish pitch by a start-up founder to a potential investor. The preferred tone seems to be a raspy pitch that’s bursting with all the energies that is just waiting for a few millions to unleash disruptive fury all around. The investor of course has an impassive but slightly indulgent frown and his fore-finger is lightly placed on his lip. Every once in a while he takes a sip from a warm cup of coffee and that kind of allows the ‘pitcher’ to catch his breath, steal a glance and re-appraise his strategies. The seeming calm of the money-bag investor is often a mask for a lot of sounds that go pop in his brain. There’s blood rushing everywhere.

I now lean back, and look around and spread my attention across the room and I take in the other sounds assaulting the dare-devil senses. I see other founders pitching their stories to young reporters. “You won’t believe me when I say this…” they go, and the reporter is chewing on a pen and all to keen to believe. The belief is mandatory for a good story that feeds the frenzy for positive news.

Then there are quite a few job interviews across the room. Except that the buzz from the interviewers is often as loud as the buzz from the interviewees. It’s not always easy to identify who’s trying to impress whom. “Ok, let me tell you a little about myself…” he says. And he lies. You can make that out from the throb in the head. ” Let me tell you about the company…” says the other guy. And he also lies. The darting eyes further adds to the noise as the nerve endings are trying to control natural urges.

Once in a while there is a designer presenting some new creative work to a wide-eyed prospect. The fatigue that follows long hours of work is kept hidden under a veneer of enthusiasm and openness to a lot more new ideas. The arrogance of the creator can’t jeopardise the chance of a deal. “So what do you think…?” she says. And the pops are at the loudest then.  The prospect sits back at this stage. The sheer relish of finding someone doing beautiful things for you creates a loop of greater desire – for more. “Is there more that can come my way?”. The prospect of over-buying is as scary as short-selling. And there’s a sort of intermittent whirr.

The music at the cafe keeps trying to distract attention from all the sounds. But nobody can seem to hear the music above the din of their own voices and thoughts.

I turn my attention to my phone. I open up Linkedin. The din of canned thoughts reaches a loud crushing crescendo as thoughts fly off empty chambers and bounce off millions of other brains. For every comment, there are a 100 likes. For every like there must be a thousand dislikes.

When the brain is on steroids, the sounds of silence are as loud as the din of chatter.