Why are writers drawn to coffee shops? Is it the need for caffeine, or maybe the ambiance? Perhaps it’s due to the feeling we are supposed to write in places like that, since many other writers do so.
For me it’s the smells. If you’ve read many of my posts you already know I despise the taste of coffee, but the smell, oh man, it’s amazing. There is a comforting feeling being in a place where coffee fragrance fills up the building. If only the stuff tasted as good as it seems like it would. Don’t lecture me, we all know coffee is an acquired taste.
I’m not sure why the scent impacts me so much but I have a theory. My parents drank coffee every morning when I was young. When I was old enough they started sending me to the kitchen to get them a refill, and eventually make the coffee and bring the first cup. Little kids are weird so I thought this was practically an honor.
Eventually I got to the point where it was a hassle and I started playing tricks.My mom never once thought it was funny when I ‘tripped’ and threw an empty mug at her. She fell for it every time. My dad, well I only did it a few times to him (daddy’s girl here), but he hated it and thought it was funny so it wasn’t worth it. It made for great memories, for me. I imagine my mom still doesn’t find it amusing.
My dad passed away when I was 15 and I hadn’t brought him coffee in years but I still associate the smell with bringing him and my mom their morning cup. I think about standing near the counter and watching the percolator, amazed at how it worked. I remember the smiles and thanks and feeling important.
So maybe I started coming to coffee shops because I heard it worked for other writers but I keep coming because it works for me. I get funny looks because I order hot tea but it tastes great and gives me my caffeinated fuel. Being judged for not drinking coffee even gave me a story called The Secret!
Of course, I can’t forget the people watching aspect. Already this morning I’ve been fascinated by the behavior of three different people. One was a woman who was clearly angry but trying to hold it in and possibly not take it out on the staff. Another was actually a family of four. I don’t know what happened but they came in with smiles and walked up to the counter. After a moment the dad looked angry and they all left, with the mom and two kids looking embarrassed. I’m pretty sure there is a story brewing after seeing that.
The most interesting was a man who came in looking exhausted. He never stopped moving. He paced for a while then when he sat down he fidgeted. His head swiveled around as if he was looking at everyone in the place but when his eyes reached me I could tell he didn’t see me. When they called his name a couple of the people working chatted with him, asking why he hadn’t been in for so long. Even his voice sounded tired as he told them his wife had just had a baby. Ah!
The poor thing leaned on the counter, which meant he stopped moving. It was clearly a mistake. He looked like he was going to fall over. His knees buckled a bit but he shook it off, showed off pictures of his child and left. I hope he made it safely home! There is also a story in my head after watching him.
Some of my best writing happened in coffee shops so I will continue to be a typical writer and hang out in these places.
To any other writers out there, if you work in coffee shops, what are your reasons? To any who don’t do this, I highly recommend it. Bring your headphones and enjoy!
Photo by Ryan McGuire. Go check out his work, it’s amazing!
Sidenote: I almost titled this post: Writers & Coffee Shops – A Love Story.