Posts Tagged ‘coffee shops’

Over the last couple of months I’ve made the Starbucks at Second and Seneca in downtown Seattle my most usual afterwork spot. It’s mainly the location. A bus that takes me all the way home stops literally outside! And the other West Seattle buses leave from First and Third Avenues – both just a very short block in either direction.

The view is interesting, with lots of buses and pedestrians. And the liquor store across the street has a lot of traffic at this time as it closes at 6pm. I think a lot of ferry commuters grab a couple of miniatures on the way down to the terminal. I was in there a few weeks ago – and almost everyone was buying miniatures:)

Finally, the staff are great. There are usually two guys in there who have a bit of a comedy routine going – and they also converse about everything under the sun. Great fun to listen to!

But now this place is being remodeled, with a part of it being torn up each day. And now it’s touched my favorite spot by the door:(

I’ve been through this twice this year. The Starbucks at Fourth and Seneca was my spot for a while. It was remodeled last summer – and that did away with my favorite seat. Then the Starbucks at Alki underwent a dramatic facelift – and my favorite seats were eliminated.

I know a shake-up is good for us all every now and then – but Starbucks seems determined to re-seat its Seattle patrons – or at least me!

As for independent coffee shops – I’ve been driven out of them by kiddie play areas:)

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And a very convenient pastime for an urban lifestyle – cheap, highly portable, can be undertaken just about anywhere, and takes up very little space. I picked up a little sketch book and some gel pens in gold and silver and have added them to my bag that I carry all the time. You might think that I am loaded down with a humungous carry-all, but I actually carry a rather modest shoulder bag. In addition to personal items, I have iPhone, e-reader, fold-up shopping bag, 12oz travel mug, and now some art supplies. A friend of mine goes a little further. She always has origami paper and something to snack on!

The doodling has given me another option to busy myself in coffee shops. Somehow, the Protestant work ethic, also known as ” idle hands do the Devil’s work”, has seeped into coffee shop culture, even here in laid-back Seattle.

When I first moved here, I enjoyed just sitting and watching the world go by. You won’t believe what a questionable activity that is – to sit alone in a coffee shop and do nothing! Could even get you on file at Homeland security. It seems that if you’re alone, and so have no one to converse with, you are supposed to read, write, work with a laptop… something! Anything to keep your hands and eyes busy.

I used to enjoy sitting outside a place near the Alaska Junction, just watching the lights change at that intersection, and the foot traffic along California Ave. Passers-by would often stop to remark that “it must be nice to have nothing to do” – and I didn’t always feel that it was nicely meant:(

Sometimes I will just listen to something on my iPhone, and that will prompt contemptuous glances to be thrown my way – even if I am listening to one of the Yale University “Open Yale” series from iTunesU! I think people must assume I’m listening to Britney Spears.

Incidentally, one of the sneaky things I enjoy doing is to enjoy some Google Earth therapy while wearing my earpods with nothing playing into them. People at the next table assume I can’t hear them, and I suspect I hear things that I might not otherwise:)

Anyway. I now have another activity to indulge in, and reassure people that I’m totally wrapped up in my own little existence, and quite oblivious to everything around me:)

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Last night I was at a bit of a loss for a pastime while listening to podcasts. I can’t just sit and listen. But I have completed several crochet projects lately, and am (a) almost out of yarn; (b) getting a little oversupplied in scarves, ponchos etc; and, (c) in the mood to do something else.

A few days ago I was at a friend’s house. He is a serious doodler – does huge doodled freizes in oil paints. But that gets costly, so he also doodles on a smaller scale with colored pencils and a drawing pad. The other night, he wasn’t too talkative, so I joined him in doodling – and it’s a bit addictive:)

I always have plenty of art supplies (another key part of urban bliss is to relatively inexpensive hobbies) so last night, as I listened to Car Talk, I doodled with metallic colored-pencils on black paper. An example is given below. It was fun and I decided to enjoy that for a while – but I would need another pad of paper, and that meant a a stop after work that would take me away from my usual routine.

When I got downtown, I took the next bus back to West Seattle because I wasn’t too sure how late the art store would be open. It was a little after 5pm with rush hour in full swing. Usually I go for coffee first, and allow the traffic and crowds to thin out – typically not going for a bus until at least 6pm.

The bus that came was not overly crowded. But the traffic was thick, and it was a bit of an ordeal actually getting away from downtown Seattle. That hour makes all the difference. If there’s one thing I hate more than being on a bus held up by a long, indecisive freight train, it’s being on a bus trying to make a sharp right turn at a light, and having to go through 4 traffic light cycles to make it – all the time having never been more than the second vehicle in line. That’s why I go for coffee first!!

Anyway, we eventually got away from downtown and I was able to get a drawing pad in plenty of time. But there was still the question of coffee. Where to go? Not that selection was limited – but rather that none of the options appealed to me in that the coffee is either too aggressive, or that lattes end up overly foamy or not hot enough:( That is the primary reason for my all-too-frequent patronage of Starbucks – it’s the only place I can get a latte that’s entirely liquid.

But I was surprised to see an “open” sign illuminated in a bakery I rather like (I thought they closed earlier) and decided to give it a shot. And I got a latte made just the way I like it:) It was nice sitting in there, enjoying another Arabian Nights tale, and a couple more chapters of Roughing It. During the day, this place is busy, bustling and loud. This evening, both the lights and the music were low. I’ll add it to my afterwork list:)

I had the remnants of a gorgeous sunset to enjoy as I walked home. It was dark, but the Olympic Mountains were still crowned with a thin layer of golds and reds. I reflected on the day. UPS and FedEx brought manageable loads. I got caught up with my work. And all my emails were answered promptly and to my satisfaction.

As I passed the blackberry patch that I enjoyed for several months over the summer, I spotted two berries in the dark – still hanging in there at the beginning of November…. but I left them be.

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I don’t enjoy crowded places. That is why I time most of my activities to be out of sync with the collective consciousness of the greater part of humanity. I learned recently that if you haven’t made it to the coffee shop on Saturday morning by 9am, then you might as well postpone it until the middle of the afternoon. (Yesterday I found the Alki Starbucks pretty much deserted around 3pm.) I also would not go out to dinner on Thursday night.

I have made quite a habit of seeking out quiet coffee shops – either places that are generally busy, but have fairly predictable lulls, or places that never seem to be crowded at any time. The latter would be my preference. But the problem is, coffee shops that are routinely uncrowded have a habit of going out of business:( This is my coffee shop paradox.

There is another dynamic I encounter from time to time. I’ll find a reliably quiet coffee shop for a particular time and day, and start going there regularly. For about a month it will continue to be quiet. But inevitably, other people start to show up, until within another month, the place has become busy enough to prompt me to move on to another place and start the process over.

Years ago, a new coffee shop opened on my circuit. For the first few months, their business was so slow I doubted they would make it. I never went there because I already had a few places I frequented out of either attachment or loyalty. Then I got a WiFi card for my laptop and started going there for the WiFi. I knew I could always get a table there – something I couldn’t count on anywhere else! For about a month I had the place to myself. But then customers started to drift in, and I got crowded out.

I’m not sure what goes on here – but it’s annoying. It’s as though the collective consciousness that I try to avoid is intent on following me around. I’m always having to stay one step ahead of it:)

I wonder if this is something I could demonstrate scientifically. I could then approach the owners of newly-opened coffee shops, or places where business is slow, and offer to hang out there in return for free lattes and scones until business picks up:)

Some people have such an effect. My ex-husband’s parents (who both passed on recently) used to travel a lot to visit children and grandchildren scattered around the country. My mother-in-law was someone who always wanted warm sunshine and would be very disappointed if a visit was spoiled by rain. Well. It rained just about everywhere they went – and I mean serious prolonged steady rain, not just showers. One of my husband’s sisters lived in Santa Barbara. When the parents showed up for a visit once, that part of California had been dealing with a long drought that was getting extremely serious. I think it started to rain the instant the parents got off the plane! The family has since credited them with breaking the California drought. As they were retired, I suggested to them that they contact chambers of commerce in drought-stricken areas of the US to offer their services. In return for a hotel room and meals package, they would come for a visit, and it would surely be raining within a day, and within a week, the reservoirs would be filled and the soil moisture replenished. I’m sure my inlaws would have enjoyed themselves too – despite the rain:)

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With all the coffee shops to choose from at Alaska Junction in West Seattle, you might wonder why I often go to the QFC grocery store. It’s that people-watching thing again. It’s always better at the grocery store:)

Today, one person in particular got my attention – because I sort of know her, although she clearly does not remember me. I see her around here quite often. She also favors grocery stores for coffee. I always want to just ask her if she still has the Norwegian Forest cat, and remark that the Norwegian children must be quite grown up now – but I am afraid It may terrify her that a total stranger knows something about her.

Years ago, I worked in a toy store. One day I was chatting with a customer about my new kitten. How that conversation got started I do not recall -but retail work has a way of spawning all kinds of conversations that have nothing to do with the job. I noticed another lady who looked like she needed real assistance as opposed to a chat, and excused myself to help her.

She needed help finding gifts for the children of a family she knows in Norway. She was very nervous about this, as though Norwegian children are a breed apart from the American article. I showed her a few things, and then suddenly, out of nowhere, she asked if my kitten sat in my lap (she must have overhead my conversation.) I said yes. She then told me how lucky I was, because her Norwegian Forest cat never sat in her lap. She really seemed sad as she said it. Norwegian children. Norwegian cat. Interesting.

She came back to the store every once in a while, always to buy toys for the Norwegian children. Each time, I asked after her Norwegian Forest cat. Each time she was astounded I knew she had one.

I left the toy store to work in a pet food store. Eventually I encountered this lady there also, when she came in to buy cat food. Again I asked about the Norwegian Forest cat. Again she was astounded. I reminded her of the toy store where I used to work. She was amazed I remembered her.

I was amused to see her today, and resisted the urge to talk to her. And she is not the only person I remember little details about. I was in retail work for five years, and I am always seeing people who I know little things about. And most of them do not seem to know me at all – which is probably a good thing:)

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