I was second in line at a local coffee shop. The man ahead of me chatted away on his cell phone while the barista waited, patiently, to take his order. It made me think about my mother, who was frequently heard to say -- especially in her later years: “I’m not meant for this world.” By this she meant that whatever it was she was witnessing at the time was so far out of line with the world she grew up in and the values she was taught that she felt she was visiting an alternate universe. The older I get, the more I sound like my mother, though instead of saying “I’m not meant for this world,” I’m thinking: “Hey! It’s not all about you!” The line behind me was now five-deep; yet the man in front was still on his phone, oblivious to everything and everyone around him. The barista made eye contact with me and shrugged, helplessly. I tapped the talker on his back. He turned and glared, his cell phone still glued to his ear.
“You’re holding up the line,” I shouted. “The barista is waiting for your order.”
After he had his “quad venti half caf breve, no foam and with two Splenda stirred,” I took my simple cup of coffee and looked for a table. There weren’t any. All the tables -- for two or four -- had been taken by singles and were covered with laptops, books, papers, travel bags, and drinks. The so-called “empty” chairs were covered with more personal belongings.
A woman left her table and headed for the exit door. Although it was covered with dirty dishes, litter, and a puddle of water, I grabbed it and bused it myself. On my way back to my table, I noticed that the woman at the order counter was juggling her infant in her arms while struggling to get her wallet out of her purse. Finally, she set the possibly urine-saturated child on the counter. Would the barista wipe off the counter with a strong detergent? I decided I didn’t want to know and took the chair that put my back to the counter.
A cell phone rang. Its owner, the man at the table to my left, answered, speaking in a very loud voice. I was going to ask him to either lower his voice or take his call outside when music blasting from a nearby laptop drowned him out. It was the overture to Lawrence of Arabia. Did someone actually intend to stream a four-hour movie on the coffee shop’s broadband?
The woman to my right covertly pulled a Styrofoam cup and tea bag from her book bag, filled the cup with the shop’s free hot water, and returned to her table with a fistful of sugar packets, stirrers, plastic utensils and napkins. She, at least, knew to be discreet, unlike the moocher in front of me who obviously saw nothing wrong with bringing food and drink into the store. A jar of peanut butter, a loaf of bread, and a drink can were on his table, out in the open, for all to see.
Another kind of coffee shop parasite are those who nurse one cup of coffee for four to six hours, negatively affecting store turnover. These “shoplifters” (of the coffee shop variety) apparently feel no economic or moral obligation towards their benefactors; after all, "It's all about them."
The problem for coffee shop owners is that they have been too successful in making customers feel “at home.” That’s why you often see them …
...MANICURING THEIR NAILS...
People didn’t used to be so self-absorbed and disinterested in how their behavior impacted others. If Mother were here, she would pitch her thesis on “reciprocity,” which goes like this: “Successful lives and relationships are based upon reciprocity. If givers give but never receive (not even a simple thank you), givers will eventually be sucked dry and have nothing left to give.”
Mother was right, I thought. Slowly but surely there's a “laptop backlash” across the country. In some coffee shops there are signs asking patrons to share their tables -- especially during peak hours. There are also signs notifying customers that laptops are banned during high traffic hours -- unless the customer is eating and keyboarding at the
same time. Many shops have discontinued free Wi-Fi
service on week-ends and cover electrical outlets. And believe it or not, there are coffee shops that prohibit
laptops at any time!
Owners of a coffee shop in
became so annoyed with customer rudeness that they started charging different prices for
the same drink, depending on relative politeness. For example, if the
customer says “One coffee,” the coffee price is 7 Euros. “One coffee, please,” 4 Euros, and “Bonjour, one coffee, please,” 1.4 Euros.
If coffee shop devotees don’t want to lose their privileges, they should follow these ten commandments:
1. Don’t download huge files or stream movies. They take up a lot of
2. For every hour you’re in the coffee shop, buy at least one item.
3. Take the smallest table you can, and leave room for others.
4. Don’t hog electrical outlets, and use your own battery whenever possible.
5. Mute the sound on your computer or wear headphones.
6. Turn off your cell phone or put it on vibrate, and take your phone
7 Bus your own table.
8. Never bring your own food and drink into a coffee shop!
9. Remember to say “please” and “thank you.” It doesn’t cost anything!
10. If you’re going to hit on the barista (or baristo), pick a “slow” time of day.
Follow these rules and maybe you and your coffee shop will be able to enjoy a long and happy life together.
Whiningly yours, Carol