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March 2012

Boulder Coffee Shop Etiquette

By Universe

Caffeine Crawl

Boulder coffee shop etiquette. It’s an interesting thing.

A moment ago I was reprimanded by someone at a coffee shop for setting up at the four person table, of which they only occupied one seat. It is the second time this happened in as many months. Both reproaches were quite severe, and today’s was even more so. It’s not like these are two-person tables, or that there are books or coats on the other seats; in both cases it was quite apparent that the other three seats were completely unoccupied.

On one hand, I can see how in a slightly less crowded community one asks to sit at an unoccupied seat, whereas in NYC, you just pull up and sit down. And I think this is because of the different environments. In NYC, you are in a constant state of people-overload. Smashed into subway cars, pushing past one another on busy sidewalks, cramming into an elevator; people-everywhere is such a constant state of being that you become harden to it. Your sense of personal space, and need for such, is malleable depending on your immediate surroundings. As such, seeing a community table at a coffee shop in NYC, it would be nothing to just pull up a chair and sit down.

It is clearly not so in Boulder. The undercurrent that I find ironic is the aggressive and rude comments I’ve received for simply sitting down in one chair at a four person table. The fellow today got up and left the table, tersely telling me, “you could have asked before taking over the table.” Granted, I did snap back at him, telling him how I thought his stance was ridiculous and his comment rude, and we left it at that. After all, you don’t get to tell off a New Yorker without getting an equally sharp response.

But after two incidents, I’ve learned that I need to adjust my expectations. Maybe the personal-space-bubble is bigger in smaller cities. Maybe when we sit at a communal table we claim lordship over it and a stranger stepping up is as good as invading our territory. Maybe, I’m just being dramatic.

I think the lesson is that I need to understand this is the way it is here, and simply adjust to it. That doesn’t make these self-righteous attitudes over, what are to me, petty matters any more excusable, but that’s a story for another day.

For now, let me practice. Ahem. “I do beg your pardon kind sir, but may I share this table with you on this fine Colorado morning. Jolly good.”