Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The ABC's of Civil Society. Or Coffee Shop Patrons Et Al.

I spend a lot of time in coffee shops. Espresso, free internet, and espresso being the top three reasons. There are certain traits that make for a great coffee house. It can't be overly bright, can't have bad, mass produced art on the walls, can't have a muzak system oozing emasculated versions of popular music into the air. But all of this can be somewhat forgiven if the patrons are friendly, intelligent, engaged, and polite.

Last night, in the throes of boredom, I pulled into a Starbucks (T-Bones my regular haunt was closed) to borrow their WiFi and within a few short minutes my coffee house experience was sorely compromised. In an open letter to the offending individuals, I hope that by highlighting their grievous behavior it may lead to less of the same in the future. The letter, as follows:

Dear Person A, please do not park in handicap spots. They are not for you unless you have a physical disability that makes traversing a parking lot a painful chore. If you are merely lazy, as I assume you are, since you just walked spryly to your seat, then kindly move your vehicle.

Person B, if you might abstain from your vulgarity and raunch infested ramblings as there are children within earshot. Perhaps like person A, you have the inability to perceive your surroundings, you do not see the child, the one that is six feet from your locale, the one directly in front of you, as obvious as, say, bold blue lines paralleling a vehicle.

Hattiesburg Artist Spence Townsend's epic mural on T'bones' west wall.

Person C, your blue tooth headset is sooooo 2007. And although I have a penchant for nostalgia, 2007 was not a good vintage. Where was I going with this? Oh yeah, quit talking loudly to the air. If you are driving then I am the first to commend your responsible citizenry using your hands-free device, but if you are in a coffee shop, please refrain from this awkward monologue, this one-act play of intermittent pauses and incomplete thoughts that do not segue into other incomplete thoughts. Your volume only serves to emphasize the mundane nature of your half of the conversation. Brevity being the essence of wit, you have far exceeded those parameters, and now, the rest of us can only hope you have forgotten to charge your phone.

Person D, your mom does not work here. Bus your own trash. Or tip accordingly. Yes you did just pay 5 dollars for a very bastardized version of some formerly proud Italian coffee drink, but that does not give you carte blanche to be a slob.

Person E, berating the barista will not give you the satisfaction you are demanding, nor that which you feel you deserve. It will however get your drink spat in on some subsequent visit. That is not a threat, that isn't a promise, that's just payback. Subsequently, please stop acting as if you have experienced some great injustice. There is no conspiracy to make your beverage wrong. Perhaps your finely tuned palate is just too precise for this establishment. All apologies.

Person F, forgive me for breathing your air. For even being seen in your peripheral. If I could be unborn, I would at this moment do so. Needless to say, if ever I am on fire, I would not imposition you to waste a single drop of any of your bodily fluid to ease even my slightest discomfort at being ablaze.

Live music at T-Bones featuring Scott Chism and The Better Half. The voice of an angel mingled with the heart of an outlaw. (photo by Sam Miller of Blue Healer Music)

Person G, no matter how many times you tell your racist joke, it's still not funny, it still reveals the limited scope of your intelligence, your deep-seated insecurities, and your latent fear of all that is not homogenized. I have to this point refrained from any and all judgments on your breeding. That could however change at any moment.

Person H, your description of religion, more like an autopsy, was a lot like talking to an oral hygienist about kissing. While factual, and anatomically precise, it disemboweled any and all romance from the act. Your Greek pronunciations, while endearing with your slow southern drawl, were in fact lost on us, your English-speaking coffee house congregation.

Person I, thank you for the nice tract on the evils of rock and roll. I would be glad to throw it away for you. I'm not sure what is more inane, the fact that you profiled my long hair or the fact that the illustrator of your little comic strip sermon did. If you are the same person, and I'm not saying you are, quit leaving those other tracts around that look like five dollar bills. If you want people to convert, use real 5's and write a scripture on them. Also, if you ever leave a fake five for a tip for the waitress making $2.25 an hour, the one with three kids and a deadbeat old man, God's gonna give you the pox. No, not really, but Imma ask Him to.

Person J, and person K, rent a room. I have seen this reality show. Your public displays of affection are merely cries for help. J, she'll never get your "art". And K, to be honest, there may very well be nothing to get.

Joe Van Zandt, one of my favorite songwriters who along with his lovely wife, is a long time friend of Conspiracy Of Hope.

Person L, loudly talking politics in public, well it's a lot like a bathroom exhaust fan, only in reverse.

Person M, your ringtone is soooooo rad. Nickleback is sooooooooo rad. You should probably just not answer that call and let the rest of us hear the hook one more time...

"Screamin' no!
We're never gonna quit, ain't nothing wrong with it
Just acting like we're animals
No, no matter where we go 'cause everybody knows
We're just a couple animals"

If ever there has been a reason to attack Canada....or 4...
Person N, the perfume you're wearing is really nice. I will think about it later tonight while it's still burning my eyes, still lingering on my taste buds, still clinging to every fiber of my clothes.

Person O, there is a logic, an etiquette, a method to the madness of waiting in line. While understandably nuanced and potentially cumbersome to the unintiated, here are some helpful tips. The following are never ok: 1. Your loud exasperated sighs at the slow speed of the line's movement. If you do not have the time to wait, don't. Or get here earlier, or quit booking your schedule so tight. I know you are important, that the great machine of civilization will grind to a halt without your prompt attention, but since you are so important, maybe you owe it to the rest of us to quit taking so many coffee breaks. 2. You will not move the line quicker by your proximity to the person in front of you. If I can feel your hot breath on my neck...too close. If I can tell what you have in your front pockets without looking...yep, you guessed it, way too close.

More of Spence's incredible art. He has donated generously to Conspiracy Of Hope for our art show fundraisers. He is also a talented musician. Check out he and his brother's band Kookaburra!?

Person P, Q, and R, at first I thought you three were script writers for Desperate Housewives or Jersey Shore, but then I realized you were just viscous gossips. Please refrain from airing the dirty laundry of your friends, family and neighbors. Though by your ecstatic tone it is evident that you live vicariously through their sordid lives, please remember they are somebodies child, parent, or spouse. When and if it happens to you or your loved ones you'll see there really is no "fun" in dysfunction.

Person S, while ingenious, using a fork as a back-scratcher is really quite uncouth. If this were a camp-out or a locker room, high fives would be in order, but there are other people here trying to eat. But if you must persist in scratching your back with your eating utensil, please, for the love of all that is holy, refrain from eating with it afterward.

Person T and U, if you continue with your unfettered use of sugary pet names and syrupy baby talk you're going to send the whole lot of us into a diabetic coma.

Person V, although it may be hard to believe, a human sneeze travels at about 60mph. The fastest sneezes have been recorded at well over 120 mph. I'm no mathmatologist, but the distance from your nose to my face is like 20 feet. That means in like a hundredth of a second....well....just cover yer friggin' nose. Gracias.

Person W, that dry gurgling sound at the end of your straw means your drink is finished. I know it seems like there should be more, but there's not, and there's never gonna be. Just walk away man. Just walk away.

Person X, thank you for being such a willing and amicable ambassador for America. But the person to whom you are speaking is not hard of hearing, nor illiterate. They merely speak another language. Please stop talking loudly in long drawn out monosyllabic sentences. The dumb look on their face is merely one of astonishment and embarrassment and not ignorance as you might suppose.

Person Y, your conspiracy theories of government complicity in covering up alien involvement in fixing major sporting events and of stealing patents, like yours for the perpetual motion machine, is well founded. In fact I am quite sure that the man, let's call him person Z, the one with the shades sitting covertly in the corner, the one snoring loudly, pretending to be asleep, is following you. Yes, that one, with the ominous wristwatch that as we both know is a mind reading device. You should probably leave, quickly. Before you make anymore children cry with your tales of CIA plots to euthanize the Easter Bunny, Santa Claus, and Justin Beiber.

And to all, as Groucho Marx once said, I've had a perfectly wonderful evening. But this wasn't it. So stop by T-Bones sometime, the coffee's absolutely amazing and the people are just plain lovely. Honest.


  1. I am in awe over how much you have to write about coffee shop experiences. I quite starbucks over 3 years ago. I've been maybe half a dozen times since then (I think it's impossible to fully quit and still hang out with friends). I miss Pikes Perk in COS. It was a small chain of 3 or 4 coffee shops. loved going there. Back when I was a starbies regular, I got an iced americano with an extra shot. my stomach can't handle it anymore :( i'm an old lady.

  2. ooooOoooh. do you like vietnamese cuisine? ever had a ca phe su'a da?

  3. Ha. Yeah. Having no "place" I tend to spend my non-work hours at coffee shops. And I love Vietnamese cuisine, the limited amount I've had but never had that coffee drink. Sounds awesome.

  4. ah yeah. my home is just a small rented room, so i'm a beach bum. though i haven't spent any real time at the beach in like 2 months.

    I love pho, and I live in the largest vietnamese community in the country, so i can get it 24/7 from any of at least a hundred places. (ok bragging done, I dont even like it during the summer anyway). you gotta try ca phe su'a da. it's dark roast coffee brewed by the cup by way of a french drip filter, over a little sweetened condensed milk. then ya stir it and pour over ice. i love going to the authentic places where they serve it still dripping. i dont need a barista to do all the work for me ;)

  5. Annabelle, sounds lovely! I'll try it as soon as I can find it. HA!

  6. lol yeah what are the demographics like in your area? my current city is 90K people--32K white, 42K asian. by contrast the city where I work (2 cities/10 miles away) is 85K people--74K white, 6K asian. a lot changes in a few miles!

  7. Annabelle, bout 50/50 and around 60K up to 80K when college is in at the 2 universities and the Army base has new recruits. It get's whiter the farther west you go from the city. The great white flight we call it. The last vestiges of the old south....bigotry by suburban sprawl...lame.

  8. Confession: I have, in times of desperation, scratched my back with a fork :/ Although it wasn't in public, and I didn't eat off of it afterwards. Hope we can still be friends.

    Annabelle- where have you been? I was thinking about you today and wondering if you've fallen off the face of the earth? And I love Pho too, but I have a hard time finding people to eat it with me.

  9. Becca-I have fallen off the face of the earth!! lol. Next time my uncle goes to Clovis to visit his friends, I swear I'm gonna sneak in the back and then I will come eat pho with you!!! I can even wow you with my chopstick skills :D

    Mark-wow. That's pretty diverse. Colorado was like 80 percent white. I'm pretty used to a 40-60%, with the rest mainly hispanic and asian. I love being surrounded by different colours and different foods and different languages. I always find it ironic how much I love the oral diversity considering it was a punishment! I just hate that all the variety comes at the cost of overpopulation. Our cities are just piled on top of each other. . .I like that in Colorado I actually knew when I left one city and entered another. Here you have to learn which street marks the city boundary

  10. Rebecca....all is forgiven, Lord knows I have too....

  11. ha. . . ha. . . ha yall are crazy. (i might have used a chopstick) what i dont get is how i can put sunscreen on my own back without missing a spot but i cant reach all the itches!

  12. annabelle....good question...hmmmmm......