I began to look around for convenient public places to write. I am not a coffee drinker; tea is my libation. Regardless of what steamed in my cup, I like the concept of sitting in a coffee house.
My niece, up until recently worked at a ‘Seattle’s Best Coffee’ in a busy urban setting. One day last year I was visiting her town and sat and watched her in action. The barista is the bartender of the current age. No dark corners and shadows for this ‘counter’ culture hero as they brew their own comforting beverage. I sat at the small round table near the front of the store and watched Elizabeth flit back and forth behind the machine, bouncing in and out of sight, a silk yellow daisy– lotus like on her bobby pinned ink black hair. At times her generous smile and bright eyes would peer out from the side, not quite able to see over the polished Italian machine, she would engage in conversation with her regulars. Calling out the language of the coffee house, she spoke over the effluent steam and flowing brown liquid. She knew her customer’s names; she knew their drinks, and like a crispy sliver of biscotti, snippets of their lives as she filled their mugs.
Some people that know me were surprised that I had not wholly rejected the big business of Starbucks. But they also know my insatiable curiosity for people and ‘pop’ culture. People watching and pretending to be part of the crowd was research and consumption.
So I came to sit. The beautiful people queued up in an environment where marketing peeks out from every corner. The impeccable service, spit polish shine, and a quality product is perfectly matched to this consumer culture.
Is it inappropriate that I can forgive Starbucks for what they may or may not have done to the neighborhood coffee houses? I have never been one for legislated culture. It must be organic and self supporting – but more on that another time.
During my test phase I started noticing the proliferation of computers. There were many people that came to work, it was not just students with highlighters, coil ring notebooks and textbooks in hand. Does anyone go to the library anymore?
I sampled a few Starbucks, one on my way to work, another at the edge of a shopping plaza. The narrow seating areas and little tables were good for drop-in sessions but I am too self-conscious to write with people looking over my shoulder. The wobbly pedestal tables are especially awkward for my larger than average computer. Einstein’s bagels seemed another good spot. The design gave me a wall to back onto. The buzz and comings and going a soothing white noise. Ultimately though, a subtle guilt set in for taking up a table and nursing a single Iced Tea for a couple of hours – it really is more of a restaurant. Guilt aside, the lack of wireless internet sent me back on the road,
Then I sampled a Barnes and Noble store, it seemed perfect! Surrounded by books, black lacquer tables and old-fashioned wooden chairs that lent an air of academic credibility. The guilt was held at bay by the knowledge of regular book purchases offsetting the entry fee. Then one day the tables were gone. Pulled into the traffic flow, now piled with pyramids of books to sell. I was no longer welcome as a writer; the chairs remained to encourage readers.
The next stop has become my new writing home. A Borders Books with a Seattle’s Best Coffee at the back. A corner table gives me privacy while affording an un-obstructed view down the store. If I had any complaints, the lack of a plug limits my sessions to the life of my battery. Secondly, month after month, no attention had been given to a burnt out bulb on the track lighting. For longer marathon days, the table by the condiments has a wall plug. And a bonus! My chai latté and tea orders count towards their rewards program. This is starting to sound like a commercial; I would like to assure readers that I am not affiliated in any way with Borders (or Starbucks that owns the SBC brand).
With a spot identified, now comes the choice to make the time.