Coffee Shop Comeback ☕️

Why being able to return to a coffee shop after more than a year of pandemic chaos means so much to me.

(Jon Tyson/Unsplash)

Look, there’s going to be no perfect time in which we can re-embrace normalcy after a pandemic that put us in a difficult situation for more than a year. Your normalcy doesn’t look like mine.

But as I write this outside of a Starbucks (yeah, yeah, I know), in a habitat I once considered natural, I can’t help but feel like we’ve made it pretty far.

The thing is, I once took this experience for granted. Almost every day I would start my day in a coffee shop, treating it as my home base for writing, research, editing, even the occasional meeting. And I mean, I was far from alone in wanted to use coffee shops in this way.

But when the message was sent out into the world—stay away, there’s a pandemic on the loose—I stayed home. It sucked, something I’m sure you’re all aware of. And I took it seriously.

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(Matt Hoffman/Unsplash)

For as long as I can remember, this experience meant something to me. I can even remember the first coffee shop I embraced as a home base: Milwaukee’s Fuel Cafe, which looked like it was from the ’90s well into the iPod era, and is still around, nearing its 30th anniversary, though it looks nothing like I remember it. I didn’t even have a laptop at that point. I just went there, read the alt-weeklies, and realized that, hey, I might want to hang out in a place like this on the regular. It wasn’t long after I made that realization that I got an iBook. (I paid more than $50 for it.)

There have been many coffee shops in my life—Elliot’s Fair Grounds, a second-floor haunt in Norfolk, Virginia, deserves special mention here—and some had more of a personal touch than others. I’ve been treated like a stranger in the hippest local coffee shops around; I’ve been treated like a friend in the most corporate of chains. I’m a massive coffee nerd; my wife and I once took a trip around Europe trying to discover the best coffee shop we could find (Tim Wendelboe in Oslo, in case you were wondering), and I have all the elements to make a good coffee inside the comfort of my own home. But for some reason, I will eschew all of that just to go to a random coffee shop, sit around, and write for a few hours.

So I guess what I’m saying here is that the fact that I can write this outside of a Starbucks on a Tuesday morning means something to me, especially after more than a year of not being able to do it. (It’s nice, as well, that I finally have a laptop that will last me an entire work day without needing to be plugged in, tamping down on one of the practical frustrations facing a coffee-shop regular.)

I took this pandemic seriously, even if it meant missing out on things that I once took for granted. Even if it meant going a little stir-crazy.

But I think it’s because I knew if we were going to have a return to the normalcy of a coffee shop, we would have to put the time in.

I’m not going to take this for granted anymore.

Time limit given ⏲: 30 minutes

Time left on clock ⏲: 4 minutes, 28 seconds

Ernie Smith

Your time was just wasted by Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is the editor of Tedium, and an active internet snarker. Between his many internet side projects, he finds time to hang out with his wife Cat, who's funnier than he is.

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