Writing in Coffee Shops: Latte Be

People writing in coffee shops get a lot of stick, but I think we should cuddle them instead...
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People writing in coffee shops get a lot of stick, but I think we should cuddle them instead...


Google the words ‘Coffee shop wankers’ and you’ll be overcome with snidey articles about how those of us who write down words on our laptops in coffee shops are some of the worst criminals who’ve ever lived.

On one hand, it’s fair enough. Haven’t all of these people got a place to go? Do they need to be in public, writing so everyone can see what they’re doing? Whenever I patronise my local Costa, I see the same woman, her laptop open in front of her, a large bottle of Evian on the table (I’d be having words about that, if I worked at Costa) and a deep look of concentration on her face. For some reason, this woman always seems to be wearing a sports vest, as though she might get up and does a few laps of the car park whenever she feels the gears of her mind grinding groggily to a halt. This is all fair enough, do what you want, I say, but I’ve never seen this woman actually write anything. All she seems to do is stare about the room, scowling. I can’t help but assume that she may as well be at home for all the distractions she’s avoiding.

Personally, I quite like writing in a coffee shop. (If you can ever find a plug, amiright, guys?) I find the atmosphere when everyone’s sat around getting stuff done quite encouraging. It makes writing difficult pieces that bit easier, there’s a bit of the old ‘Dunkirk spirit,’ of us all being in it together, like latching on to someone who’s equally rubbish during a charity run and just hoping to make it through the whole thing together. The whole experience of writing in a coffee shop reminds me of something I discovered in the last few weeks of university, a thing called a ‘library’. I’d heard of this place, but it wasn’t until the final months that I realised I’d better go and do some work there, and it was great. If you’re a lazy sort of person who needs a bit of encouragement to get a bit of work done, there’s nothing like being surrounded by more productive people to make you up your game.

Of course, when you’re dealing with a library, you’re bound to get those tri-hards who tweet things like ‘Packing my bag for a 72 hour library bender #killme’, as though we’re supposed to feel proud of them. I find a good response is always ‘#iwishsomeonewould’. Clearly, you’re going to get a lot of these types hanging about in coffee shops. As Family Guy points out, they’re the type of people who need to be seen writing. But the problem here doesn’t lie with the act of writing, or the location itself, no, the problem lies with people who need validation for every single thing they do.


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Just the other day I endured a bus journey with two young men in suits talking at each other, for twenty minutes, without pause, about their new car insurance schemes. All right, we get it, you’ve insured your car, and even saved some money whilst you were at it. Well done, you’ve managed to behave like every other adult with a car, let’s move on. Why these people need to loudly discuss something like this in a public place must be the same reason why so many people feel the need to pitch up in a cafe and start clacking away on a keyboard. Basically, they all want a big hug and a pat on the back, but how can we give it to them without incurring court orders?

The answer to this problem remained a mystery to me until yesterday, when a middle aged man chimed up in the Costa queue ‘Warm today.’ Yes, yes it was warm, which begged the question, why were we all buying hot beverages? Then I realised that coffee shops are really social places mostly inhabited by people who are just too shy to go over and ask the person on the next table to have a nice chat. That’s why some people have to set out their laptops so everyone can see them doing something worthwhile. In effect, the majority of the laptoppers are saying ‘I’m better than you. I have work to do, I’m not just some lonely loser who just comes in here to hear the sound of another person’s voice.’ Clearly, they’re big fibbers and also, this sort of passive-aggressive behaviour will not do.

So, the answer is this: every Tuesday and Thursday morning (plus alternate Saturdays), coffee shops hold a sort of ‘speed dating’ service where people can turn up and talk at each other for 3 hours, and get it all out of their system. The only requirements will be to sit opposite someone, to give the impression of a two-way conversation. Then, along one wall, we’ll have a row of laptoppers, like court reporters, writing the whole thing down into a garbled mess of postmodern gibberish.

Once they’ve all got this out of their system, they can go about their day without feeling the need to bother everyone they meet with blasé comments about last night’s BGT. Then, come the afternoon, all the miserable, unsociable bastards like myself can come in and drink our overpriced mugs of hot water and ground beans in peace. Sound like a plan? Everyone agreed? Comment and tell me what you think. I’ll be refreshing the page in between fresh lattes.

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