Making Assumptions About Strangers: Coffeeshop Edition


Sometimes when you’re a writer, you need to pry yourself out of the cocoon of solitude that often constitutes an average workday. You probably end up at your trusty neighborhood coffee shop. It’s natural; proximity to endless, life-giving caffeine, the calming white noise of a constant parade of strangers, punctuated with just enough semi-friends to remind you that you’re a real person, and free wifi. Since “writing” is 90% staring off into space trying to figure out what the balls to write about, your other, unofficial profession becomes people watching. This is what you are likely to see:

The Overly-Caffeinated Girl

She just finished going for a morning run and she wants to talk to you about things. Shake the hangover out of your hair, pour that latte straight into your eyeballs, because you have to keep up, and no, you don’t have a choice. I know you came here for a little quiet You Time, but now you have a “friend” who’s high on endorphins, coffee, and — you have to believe — a potent cocktail of mood-elevators. Oh, you really should try acupuncture. Like, she knows it’s a little out there, but it’s pretty worth it. Have you tried that new breakfast place down the street? Amaaaazing vegan pomegranate buckwheat pancakes. You can barely tell they’re vegan, swear. You are such a Virgo and she is going to tell you why, and why that’s wonderful because she loves Virgos. Every nerve in her body is lit up on Central America’s finest and she is God’s painfully enthusiastic way of punishing you for wasting $6 when you know damn well you should’ve made coffee at home.

The Hot Barista

It’s not an urban legend; these guys exist in every coffee shop in every hip neighborhood ever. Here’s the key to boning them: be nice, tip well, look effortlessly hot in a daytime, can’t-you-imagine-us-having-coffee-together-in- the-mornings kind of way, etc. All of that is important and obvious. The key to locking down this guy (for a night, or forever and ever – whatever you’re going for) is to figure out where he drinks. It’s likely nearby, as is his apartment. Running into him in a nighttime, social, alcohol-fueled scenario is how you go from “cute customer” to “cute person who he is already familiar with but who he now realizes is fun and sexy and socially relevant and he must have tons in common with, and probably needs to get to know better (with his penis).” Also, you have to either drunkenly bump into him by actual coincidence, or find out his watering hole without him knowing you’re finding out. It’s okay to be a little stalker-ish during the course of seduction, as long as the object of your desire doesn’t find out you’re being stalker-ish. Listen, don’t judge me. I didn’t invent the rules.

The Not Hot Barista

He got this job because he heard girls go wild for coffee dudes. He realized quickly that — as is always the case — girls really just like hot guys. Indeed, certain professions highlight that hotness more than others, like living everyday inside a well-lit photograph. But possessing pre-existing sex appeal is undeniably a requirement for the lusty perfect storm that is the Hot Barista. Not Hot Barista knows this now. Upside: he ended up getting really good at his job, so he makes the best drinks in the hood, and if you do find yourself attracted to him, there are practically no hoops to jump through to get on that. But if you want him to worship you for making him feel like Ryan Gosling with a milk steamer, jump through the hoops anyway.

The Aging, Local, Metal Guy

He was at every “important” underground show in town 15 years ago, has an unparalleled t-shirt collection to prove it, and in his mind, he owns this place. He walks in with a deliberately disinterested stomp. The fact that he put on pants is the only discernible acknowledgement of any distinction between this, a public place, and his own kitchen. His kitchen, in fact, probably has a coffee maker that works perfectly well, where the second, third and ill-advised fourth cups of coffee will be processed and consumed. He just comes here for the first cup, mostly as a reason to get dressed, to walk a familiar few blocks, see familiar faces, and feel quietly and naturally part of the neighborhood fabric. This walk to the coffee shop is necessary to shake his aged, viscous blood loose in his veins from the night before (hosting Metal Mondays at a local bar), and to justify his existence. The 2 minutes of complete superiority and belonging he feels while walking in, clearing his throat and grunting an order to a barista who nods with
appropriate recognition and respect, while waiting for his coffee – it’s all to balance out the sticky, hung over self-loathing that you won’t ever fully understand until you wake up to find yourself 40, with sagging tattoos, the wardrobe of an early 90s, punkish, 22-year-old, and an utter, almost pathological refusal to address the fact that while you’ve been judging your friends for growing up, moving on, and selling out, you were really just becoming increasingly old and alone. These days, this guy is more part of the scenery than the scene. But for a silent strut through the coffee shop doors each morning, he is still king.

The Writer Girl

Oh look at this bitch. She’s so self-satisfied and removed from it all, sipping her green tea and making broad assumptions about everyone else in the room, putting them into archetypal little boxes for no other purpose than to perpetuate her own self-image as an insightful note-taker on human existence. She’s probably the most annoying person in the room. What a jerk.

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image – Giovanni Portelli