In Paris, you sit in the cafe, like Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir. Sitting in a cafe is one of the main activities in Paris. It's what Parisians do instead of working or jogging. They have a natural talent for it, the way Americans are good at going to the pool, grilling meat or driving interstate highways.
The crucial skill in a cafe is the ability to gear down, from second to first, and then down yet again to a special, Gallic gear that is nearly paralytic. It's a bit like being dead, but with better coffee.
From The Art of Doing Nothing. Here's one more extract:
... to my immediate left sat a Frenchman in a pose so relaxed he might have been modeling for Toulouse-Lautrec. He was doing nothing, and doing it with panache. Between two fingers dangled a cigarette that remained lit even though he never did anything so animated as puff. It was hard to tell if he was truly drinking his glass of red wine; the level went down so slowly it may have been merely evaporating.
Why did he not try to achieve something? The cafe advertised WiFi, but no one had a laptop. This was not Starbucks. There was no American compulsion to multitask, to use the cafe as a caffeination station and broadband platform for another increment of accomplishment.
I went back and checked who wrote this article. It's the wonderful Joel Achenbach, whose highly bloggable quote was featured here.