Wednesday, September 22, 2010

But for Want of a Good Coffee Shop...

I love working in coffee shops. In my mind, they provide the perfect environment because:
  1. You're not disturbed, but you're also not alone (which can impede work because all you want to do is go and find people to avoid it).
  2. There is coffee which increases both comfort and productivity
  3. If you are hungry, there is usually food. The food costs money, so it dissuades you from eating to avoid your work, but you also know it's there if you need it so you cannot use the excuse about needing to go get food.
  4. The white noise of music or conversation is there for you, but you can easily drown it out with your own music.
  5. You look super cool sitting there with a scholarly book, math/science problem sets, classical poetry and a dictionary, etc
  6. There might be interesting people there to notice if you need a moment of a distraction before you get back to work, and you don't look like you're paying attention to them, because you're working
  7. Every good coffee shop has its own unique appeal.
I rarely went to the campus coffee shops when I was at school. The coffee was pretty great, but unfortunately I knew a lot of people who went there and worked there, which caused it to violate my first benefit of coffee shops (listed above). So instead, I used to walk about 0.8mi to my favorite coffee shop.

The shop had one long window that face the street so that the light came in and a person sitting in the chairs could see people walking by. For people-watchers like me, this was an ideal place. The coffee was generally of good quality and their multi-grain bagels were phenomenal. I used to just sit their for hours, working on my thesis or reading for one of my other classes.

The best thing about the coffee shop was the people. The baristas were lovely; they had nice senses of humor,  and they were young, friendly, and liberal. The population of the coffee shop was mostly made up of senior citizens-- most of whom had a strong christian background. The coffee shop was located in a predominantly christian neighborhood; there were seven churches in all within a three block radius of the shop. They had coffee every day. Because of the routine, they knew each other well and spent long hours drinking coffee and talking about their various childhoods as each were raised in different christian sects. There were even a christian quilting group that met there. There was also another group. There was a young web-designer, also a regular, with her dreadlocked-hair, her vulcan eyebrows, her homemade clothes, and her energetic seven-year old son. On the weekends, there were also a number of fathers with daughters and sons, often giving the children's mothers and hour or so of quiet time. And, of course, there were college students from my school and others the area. What was pleasantly surprising was the friendly ease with which the two groups interacted: the young liberal quasi-hippies and the old, christian conservatives. I do not think I have ever seen opposed groups at such peace and so pleasantly enjoying the company of one another.

I felt so at home there. I remember coming in with my laurels-- a display that I had fninished my thesis-- and one of the barristas asked what the occasion was. When I told them I had finished my thesis, the whole coffee shop applauded. It was so lovely. Then I enjoyed my coffee and bagel while reading for one of my last classes.

Unfortunately, since I moved, I do not have a new coffee shop in which I can translate. I really miss that atmosphere. There are three in the area that I have thus far discovered: one is too noisy, one is too sketchy, and one has these horrible aluminum tables that make a loud banging noise every time someone sitting at them moves. The search continues.

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