I spend a lot of time in coffee shops. As a writer (yes, I said it again, Maynard. I’m a writer. Eek.), I spend a lot of time in coffee shops.
I harbor no illusions as to the fact that these establishments provide the appearance of socialization and physical motions of co-mingling with civilized society to those of us who find we are spending way too many hours isolated in our homes, brilliantly brainstorming at our sturdy, yet solitary, writing desks. When I begin to feel that I am no longer channeling Emily Dickinson’s genius, but rather her hermetical tendencies, I toss my laptop (er, heave my laptop) into a cute carry-all and hightail it to the Living Room.
Of course, I am not the first person to write in a coffee shop. And no matter the time of day, I am one of at least a handful of diligent cabin-fever-escapees downing shots of espresso and tipping big on their three-dollar lattes in hopes of both offsetting the guilt of taking up space for five hours and encouraging the muses of literary genius to be generous.
My observation this afternoon is that crowded coffee shops come with an unwritten (no pun intended) code of etiquette that patrons observe with equanimity, despite the encroaching tension that could stem from the ratio of available tables to available electrical outlets. I suggest to you, Gentle Reader, that this code of etiquette could be applicable to life in the broader scope and perhaps, if followed, could even make the world a better place. (As anything coffee-related is wont to do.)
1. “Yes, you may share my table.” Writers know that there is room for all. Your work is just as important as my work. We can share the same table provided that you don’t smell, talk loudly on your cell phone, try to convert me to your beliefs, judge my sexual orientation, or in any other way interfere with the general maintenance of my life. I will respectfully do the same for you in return.
2. “Yes, I will help you plug in your power cord.” I am closer to the outlet, or it is in a funky place, and I don’t mind taking a minute to help you. This is a pay-it-forward moment. One day, you might be in a position to help me plug in my power cord, or move my couch, or listen to my boyfriend issues, and when that day comes, I will be really glad I helped you today.
3. “Big tippers appreciated.” Telling people they are awesome is always a win. Even if they really are not all that awesome, very often the acknowledgement of people’s potential awesomeness inspires them to rise to the level of said awesomeness. It’s inevitable. And is that dollar in the tip jar really going to kill my coffee budget? I don’t think so.
4. “I have to pee. Don’t steal my shizzle.” I did my undergrad at Mount Holyoke College. At MHC, there is an honor code, the concept of which I am sure is not unfamiliar to some of you. For the rest, I kid you not: I could leave my book bag in the library for three days and no one would mess with it. Here, we have the coffee shop honor code. The plain truth is that I am NOT going to haul my laptop into the ladies room, I’m sorry. (Not that anyone would want it, anyway. Seriously. You would have to be one desperate writer to steal this thing.) But, if you keep an eye on my stuff while I’m away, I will keep an eye on your stuff. It takes a village and in this caffeinated version of one, we look out for each other.
I might be onto something here… 🙂