Surviving reading in coffee shops

A cup of coffee – real coffee – home-browned, home ground, home made, that comes to you dark as a hazel-eye, but changes to a golden bronze as you temper it with cream that never cheated, but was real cream from its birth, thick, tenderly yellow, perfectly sweet, neither lumpy nor frothing on the Java: such a cup of coffee is a match for twenty blue devils and will exorcise them all.” – Henry Ward Beecher

What is it about great coffee and great writing? Books and coffee, a brilliant combination, right? Like all the cosmic elements in the universe hurtling towards an unknown point, I hurtle towards coffee shops with my latest book of choice on my days off. Most of the time this works well for me. The baristas are nice, they know how to make a cup and my book is the only company I crave.

Of course, things don’t ever turn out exactly like you pictured in your head when you woke up in the morning. Today I thought I would come enjoy the quiet, the air conditioning, the soothing nondescript music that blends into the background as I am absorbed into my novel with my freshly brewed cup of deliciousness. But inevitably, life happens.

I forget (in my caffeine craving haze) that my coffee shop has other patrons. Patrons that despite the plethora of empty seats in the room, will sit uncomfortably close to me. Like a gazelle whose leg is caught in a hunter’s trap, I am boxed into my previously comfortable corner by a group of people who are most often, less than enjoyable. And by ‘less than enjoyable’, I do mean absolutely maddening.

As I have learned on my weekly treks, there are many types of coffee shop patrons. First and foremost, there are the ones like me. The quiet corner dwellers with books, laptops, homework and office work who just want a haven and a good cup of java. They’ll say hello, ask you how your day is (if you are in a situation to interact politely) and then, bless them, they leave you to your activity.  Secondly, there are the swooshers, who fly in and out of the coffee shop so fast you barely know what color their hair is or if they were even wearing pants. (Don’t scoff, you know you’ve wondered that too.) The swooshers rarely become a part of any coffee shop experience as they are too quick to be anything but a flit of color out of the corner of your eye.

Then there are the chatters. They are one of the trap setters, the ones who come ready to hunt people and strategically confine you in your corner with no escape. The ones who practically sit in your lap as they try to learn your life story. They ask questions for hours, correctly assuming that you are, in fact, too nice to tell them to bugger off. They think the book in your hand was not actually a book you wanted to read but a prop to invite other people to come have long drawn out pointless conversations with you. These people usually annoy the crap out of me, especially when the whole point of my day was not to talk to people, but enjoy some solitude in a story. I actually got a date out of a chatter experience once, but really, I should have known better. Why would a corner dweller want to date a chatter? Horrible decision. But once and a while I’ll meet a nice chatter who I don’t mind saying hello to next time I see them (and then sit on the other side of the coffee shop, carefully avoiding another chatter encounter.) Therefore sometimes, these people are forgivable as long as they are more interesting than the book I was previously sharing my time with.

The worst type of patrons, those who trapped me today in fact, are the tubas. What are the tubas you ask? Well, as aptly named, they are loud, large (often consist of 3-5 people), hard to get around, impossible to miss and absolutely deafening at their full volume. They sit right next to you and they do not talk to you, but so near you that their breath can practically fan your book’s pages like a strange indoor gale. They bump your chair, nudge your purse at your feet and knock into your table repeatedly. They throw back their heads in a laugh that resembles nails on a chalkboard or a sick hyena and you have to leap out of the way to avoid tasting their hair. I have yet to taste the hair of a tuba, as my reflexes as extremely good, but I am sure one day they will take me unawares. I am pretty sure it will taste like feet.

Jonathan Swift said, “The best Maxim I know in this life is, to drink your Coffee when you can,” and so I will continue to try and do so. Unfortunately, I have yet to learn my lesson. I continue to trek to my coffee shop in hopes of that perfect delightful afternoon with a Colombian roast and my author of choice.

I guess it is just one of the many unique challenges in a avid reader’s life. Sometimes we get lucky and sometimes, we get the tubas.

8 thoughts on “Surviving reading in coffee shops

  1. I LOVED THIS! I am a barista and we have a group of about five or six regulars that come in and are definitely tubas. They blare throughout the cafe, often on offensive or controversial topics. At least tonight when they are shouting their opinions for the world, I can remember your post and laugh to myself!

    • Lol thanks lorren! I definitely figured its better to vent humourously about it than get angry at them for being what they are. My friend is a barista and she doesn’t seem to mind, but I think it would drive me crazy. 🙂

  2. Great post! This is so accurate. I rarely go to coffee shops anymore because I find it incredibly difficult to get any reading done. Homework is not so bad because I can listen to music while I do homework so I just stick my earphones in, but I can’t read and listen to music very well.

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