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Feb 18

Coffee Shop Chronicles: Are You the Trusting Sort?

Corner Bakery Café

Horsham, PA

Billy Joel had it right: it’s always been a matter of trust.

3:43pm

cellphone manA strange little coffee shop that is, or was once, a restaurant. This place serves the typical coffees and latte espresso drinks, but it also offers a choice of real food, not just the token pastries. I ordered my sandwich and soup at the counter like I’m at fast food restaurant, but the staff delivers it to your table or booth. This place has booths. They look comfy, red leather-ish, but I’m at a four-person table. There’re just a few other people in here, so I don’t feel guilty taking up the room. I see the employees bussing other tables, a strange mix of customer service.

The guy behind me is the only other business-y person here. I know he’s a “professional” because he’s been on his cell phone since he arrived. I’ve refilled my coffee twice; he hasn’t stood up yet. Doesn’t he have to use the bathroom?

“My wife can tell you better….”

He’s got a small briefcase at his side with a thick black leather day planner of sorts. He wears a blue button-down shirt. A bag of chips with his sandwich, not baby carrots. An iced drink not hot, and a tablet-type laptop he’s working on.

“I’m a relationship guy myself….” I overhear.

I can tell that.

 

3:56pm

He finally hangs up his phone and walks away, leaving all of his stuff on the chair. He’s not careless; he’s natural.

There’s an unwritten code of trust in coffee shops—don’t touch other peoples’ stuff. It never crosses my mind to do anything like that. I guess he feels the same way. It’s also echo-y empty in here now, safety in no numbers. Regardless of how many people are in a room, I, leave my computer and my bags open while I stand, stretch or go to the restroom. I recently started putting my laptop monitor to sleep when I step away. Not that I’m writing secret recipes of potato chips, but I feel protective of my writing these days.

Being casual with my stuff does not mean stupid. I always carry my purse and cell phone when I walk out of site. My purse holds the important things in my life: car keys, wallet, Office Guys, writing journal and lip balm. After that, everything else is replaceable. Losing my current writing drafts, my photos, and those expensive power supply plugs would suck–especially since I haven’t backed up my work in months–but I don’t need to pack up and carry all my stuff when I walk 10 feet away.

I learned the potential danger of having my purse out of site years ago while grocery shopping in New Jersey. I was digging through a pile of apples when this guy walks up behind me. “You shouldn’t leave your purse unattended in your shopping cart,” he said, startling me. “Anyone could walk off with it.” Like he could have, I thought. I thanked him for that advice and continued shopping with my purse on my shoulder. Because of that, I always carry my driver’s license and credit cards close to me. My laptop and pens are worth money, but they’re really only valuable to me.

Is it because laptops are so cheap these days?

No, there’s just this hands-off vibe, this respect for other patrons. Haven’t found it in any other stores, food places or restaurants. Just coffee shops.

Is it the clientele? Does the cost of drinking expensive coffee give you higher morals? Are people too wrapped up in themselves, like Cell Phone Guy behind me? Maybe we’re all too intense on working that few can’t be bothered with thievery?

Is it the neighborhoods which coffee shops live in that breed safety? Even in a questionable strip mall like this one, where the coffee shop is on an exposed corner next to a European wax salon and a chain Mexican restaurant, I feel secure.

Is it exclusivity? Remember, this coffee costs money. People like Mr. Cell Phone can afford it. Even me, a freelance writer, I splurge for the luxury of space to write.

Is it chain store vs. Shop Local mentality? I would never leave my valuables in some McFastfood joint, for example, but I’m not threatened in coffee shops whether it’s an independent store, a local chain or a big name chain. I have no paranoid delusions, no sense that somebody’s watching me. There’s just something about the atmosphere, the expectation.

6 comments

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  1. Karen Kittrell

    You have hit on a key thing—rituals around food or drink. Community is built around the neighbors at the corner pub, the coffee shop or a counter chair at the Coney Island on Sunday morning.

    1. dwhirsch

      And it’s about creating that community. You have to be open to that, or bold enough to start one yourself. Not everyone is, but it’s a beautiful, friendly thing when it is nurtured.

  2. Kelly Bixby

    I’m like the guy in the grocery store. I notice when other people let their guard down, but I don’t usually say anything . . . unless it’s one of my children who walked away from something valuable.

    1. dwhirsch

      But consider the kesson you could teach that oerson just as youd teach your child. Is everyone open and appreciative as I was? Probably not, and that unknown can be intimating from doing “the right thing”. I don’t always step up, but I hope I do it more often than not.

  3. Phil Rosette

    I think it is because you felt comfortable with the place, that’s all. Those who feel comfortable return, especially where food and beverage are concerned because of the social tags we put on dining together as either family or friends. In other words, it feels like home.

    The opposite of that would be the McBurgerburg’s of the world where all people want is a consistent product and price. It was not at all surprising to me to learn just this morning that Burger King now serve more meals at the drive-up window than at the dine in counter.

    1. dwhirsch

      I too am surprised-not-surprised about the BK stats. Perhaps it is the comfort, or perhaps the atmosphere that invites you to stop and decompress. Theres no sense of urgency or rush; that’s why coffee shops have For-Here mugs. I never thought of the food aspect, but yes, I can see that.

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