In "A Clean, Well-Lighted Place," why does the older waiter like to keep the café open late into the night?

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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The older waiter distinguishes himself from the younger waiter because of the way that he prefers to stay late in the cafe, whereas the younger waiter wants to go home and get to bed. Note the reason that the older waiter gives to the younger waiter to justify his strange behaviour:

"I am one of those who like to stay late at the cafe," the older waiter said. "With all those who do not want to go to bed. With all those who need a light for the night."

The older waiter goes on to say that not only does he prefer himself to stay late, but that he does it so that other people like him can stay up late because they "need" the "clean and well-lighted place" that the cafe gives them to take their minds of the reason for their existence and their monotonous lives. The existentialist despair that is captured so perfectly in the Spanish phrase, "nade y pues nada y nada y pues nada," which means "nothing and then nothing and nothing and then nothing," is temporarily banished in this cafe as people like the older waiter go there to escape the despair that characterises their lives.

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