What do you do at a coffee shop?

coffee, creativity, work
Red Leaf

A lovely leaf in my soy latte

I was just surfing the internet for a scarf pattern to knit. You know what happens when you do that, you end up checking e-mail and your Google reader to see who’s updated their blog or website, and I saw this from the Seattle Sketcher:

Zachary Carlsen: “Laptops have killed coffee shops”

When I go to a coffee shop, I take my journal, a book, and any internet activities are done on my cell phone. I order a macciato and a small pastry to nibble on and to sip on while I gather my thoughts. I could never work at a coffee shop because I see it as a place for pleasure, creativity, and conversation. I like coffee shops, why would I ruin that experience with work? A coffee shop is a place where I want it to be my time to do my things. I work at work where I have a nice desk my company provides for me and an ergonomic set up that I can’t get anywhere else, especially at a coffee shop table that is too high and the keyboard not at the right height. It’s a place and time to think and be with my thoughts and I do enjoy the feel of good paper under my hand and a nice pen that works with my penmanship. On a good day, I’ll follow up that macciato with a short soy latte or short americano. I never use a straw. I always slurp, and I have the stained teeth to prove it.

In addition to the drink, when I think of a coffee shop, I envision a romantic, renaissance, and liberal type of setting. A place for creative juices to flow, discuss philosophy, chat with friends, or just people watch. I see it as a place you can do all these things while wearing a scarf, fingerless gloves, and have stained hands from working and messy hair.

This week, after I pulled out my journal, took a deep breath, and put my pen to my notebook, I looked to my right and saw 8 laptops with their owners gazing into their glowing screens. I didn’t think I was better than they were. It was just kind of surreal. This isn’t what a coffee shop looks like in my imagination and from what I’ve experienced in my earlier coffee drinking years. I think I saw a third of them with coffee mugs, but I really can’t recall. I don’t know. They were just mousing, clicking, scanning, and typing away. Usually with a pinched look between their brows.

These people were probably doing what people have always done. They may have been editing photographs or doing graphic design, or enjoying great music, writing a term paper, working on an audit, blogging, checking Facebook, or writing a friend in another part of the world. With that in mind, there was no room to judge. People COULD be working, but these days, you can do anything on a laptop and those are the same things I could do with a pen and piece of paper, or even a napkin to doodle on.

So have laptops killed the coffee shop? I can’t go that far. What I will say that it does alter the physical landscape of what a coffee shop looks like, which is that it looks like people are working, which interferes with the idea of the kind of coffee shop people like me see – a place with great mugs, great coffee, friends, or a journal to empty your thoughts.