Coffee shop shenanigans

So I recently added a new item to my roster of random activities: studying for an exam of sorts next month.

In order to study, I had to buy a textbook.

Apparently, it’s a pretty special book.  I’m certain that there’s a high-tech cat alarm embedded the spine, designed to alert all felines in the vicinity of the fact that the book has been opened.

Maybe that is why the book was so damn expensive.

Frequently, I tire of fending them off and retreat to the coffee shop down the street to get through my daily study quota.

Now, I know that a lot of people love to work at coffee shops – or perhaps love the idea of working at coffee shops.  And as someone who has spent a lot of time toting her laptop around over the last couple of years, I’m here to tell you: it has its benefits and drawbacks.  While setting up shop at Starbucks is a nice change of pace, it presents its own set of challenges.  I won’t even attempt to address the study in human psychology that is Power Outlet Negotiation or Territorial Table Staking.  Instead, I’ll just focus on the lovely people that one encounters.

Because you do encounter them – over and over and over again.  I’m convinced that every Wi-Fi-equipped coffee shop in America contains as least one of the following at all times:

1) The Power Brokers


There always seems to be at least one guy who has taken it upon himself to transplant his entire office to the coffee shop.  He plugs in both his laptop and his Blackberry (jerk!) and proceeds to conduct Big Urgent Deals, usually on speakerphone.  He is oblivious to the fact that he is operating at twice the decibel level of everyone else in the room.  Eventually, he’ll shove everything back into his briefcase, sigh dramatically, polish off his latte and rush out the door – leaving his empty cup on the table, of course.  Big Urgent Meeting, no doubt.

2) The Freeloaders

I’ll admit, sometimes I’ll look at a fellow coffee-shop-camper and be like, did you actually buy anything or are you just sitting here? Not that it really affects me, I suppose, except that I don’t really enjoy smelling someone’s leftover tuna casserole that they brought in with them.  It appalls me that so many people seem to think this is acceptable.  Sure, there are comfy couches and everyone is slightly disheveled, but this is still a restaurant.  It’s not your living room.  Leave the Tupperware at home and buy a pastry if you’re hungry.

3) The Oversharers

Many coffee-shop patrons seem to think that because it’s such a casual and comfortable atmosphere, it’s okay to engage in highly intimate and/or embarrassing conversations.  They also seem to be unaware that the tiny rectangular table upon which they plant their soy macchiatos does not, in fact, create a magical soundproof bubble around them.  Psst: we can all hear you.

I will admit that sometimes I do actually enjoy the inappropriate gossipers and drama-mongers.  When I lived in New York, one of my favorite escapes was a particular Starbucks on Ninth Ave in Chelsea.  Oh man, those boys could bring the dramz!  It was pretty entertaining.

(And as a note: I actually did witness a version of the conversation illustrated.  The guy walked out crying.  It was unbelievably awkward.)

4) The Keepers of Unruly Spawn

I have no idea what it’s like to be the parent of a toddler.  For all I know, it’s hell on earth, and taking your hyperactive child to Starbucks and letting him unleash his obnoxiousness on everyone in the room is a perfectly reasonable thing to do, considering the circumstances.  Like I said, I have no idea.

But I do know that if your kid is about to break the springs of the sofa or is doing sprints around the table, perhaps you should have taken him to Gymboree rather than Coffee Bean.  And also, if he unplugs my power cord one more time, I’m going to feed him every sugar packet in the canister.  Then think of what you’ll have to deal with, Momma.

5) Hipsters

Effing hipsters.  Enough said.

It’s a tough call: the drudgery and distraction of home versus the endless parade of grating characters at the local cafe.  I always tell myself that getting out would be great, because then I could be around people.  But I always forget that those people are often obnoxious.

At the end of the afternoon today, I was more than happy to come home.

They may beat me with their tails, bat at my highlighter, scatter my pile of notes and generally prevent me from reading and/or retaining any information whatsoever, but at least they’re cute.

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46 responses to “Coffee shop shenanigans

  1. Great analogy! I used to go to coffee shops and/or the campus library to study early on the AM. The campus library was about the, but more immature (possible? definitely!)

    In the early AM coffee shops also have the “passel of old fogeys” that take up 5 tables and talk about the weather, their recent trips and grandkids…sweet at first, but it gets repetitive quick. If the place is big enough (Panera) you might get two groups of the old fogeys…

  2. WHY are you not a professional cartoonist? you are hilarious. And your artwork is magnificent.

  3. OOOH what test are you taking?! I know you are being cagey about it and not being specific, but at least I didn’t ask you how much you weighed.

    I’m totally the person who gets a tea in Starbucks and sits for three hours. Or at least I was. But mostly, I am inundated by the 15-year-olds in leggings and furry Uggs who talk loudly about…nothing. I’m serious.

  4. Excellent !!
    Working at the café=ipod in my ears 😉

  5. In college, my roommate and I would try to be cool by going to Panera to study. The production of having to figure out what we needed to bring, pack up, find a table, order, etc etc along with my horrible habit of people watching never worked out. Ever. I have no idea how people do it.
    We won’t even get into how I feel about the rabid kids that are allowed to run around stores and such. You’d think this was the first time they’ve ever seen the light of day…

  6. Ha! This is great! I need peace and quiet when I’m studying/working – I could never go to coffee shops like my friends always did…..

  7. HOW MUCH DO YOU WEIGH?

    Hee. I was hoping you would do a post to address this it’s one of those important things everyone needs to know. I admire how you are able to be snarky yet respectful at the same time. I’ve never been able to master that.

    Also, I’ve actually never owned a laptop. I think there’s something wrong with me.

  8. oh my god, i was just laughing so hard i was crying at the I”m having the baby and it’s not yours’ panel! so funny. all of them are funny and so dead on! one person you forgot was the ‘guy on laptop who occasionally stares at you and maybe smiles once in awhile, like a psycho.’

  9. Your blog is getting funnier and funnier. Love the cartoons. Hate hipsters.

  10. hahahaha, this is so accurate. When I was living with my parents and looking for a job (awesome) I had to get away and work at coffee shops. I always came back with detailed stories about the above patrons.

    Once I was sharing a power outlet with someone and since it was right under me, I offered to plug his cord in. From under the table I loudly asked “It’s kind of loose, I can’t tell.. is it in yet???” At least 3 people called out TWSS. I’m proud.

  11. ahahahaha. This is fantastic. With that, I’m off to Starbucks.

  12. Best. Post. Ever.

    I judge cities based on how interesting (ie trashy and engaging) the conversations I overhear at coffee shops are. Hipster-talk is always hilarious to listen to. Come on over to the ‘burg and laugh at hipsters with me next time you’re in NYC, okay?!

  13. Hilarious! I straight-up pink puffy sparkle heart this post. Your cats trying to wreak havoc but grinning adorably while they do it, the coffee shop characters … love it! The cats in particular. Their little smiling faces are just cracking me up. Oakley has a radar for any time I’m trying to do anything productive. He either appears over the top of the book and tries to eat the pages, or crawls into my lap and sits ON my laptop keyboard, or starts doing Cat Parkour off of my head.

  14. Hilarious! So true, I love your observations and illustrations. My favorite line: “We’re going bowling after the gallery opening. You can come.”

  15. My Starbucks has a group of women who get together to support one of them whose husband is apparently sleeping with his coworker. There are lots of whisper-shouted details that they think nobody can hear, with bursts of explosive “HIS SIZE FOUR WHOOOORE”, and then angry looks around the room at anybody that dares to look at them.

  16. Love this! I have always liked the idea of working/studying at coffee shops, but it was really only a college habit and everytime I went I would never get much done 😦 I usually just had too much caffeine and sugar AND I would make the mistake of going with other people and just talking to them instead of studying. Happy studying to you, it sounds like you’re a bit more focused than I! Also, fabulous artwork as always 🙂

  17. I love it! I’ve done the working at a coffee shop thing quite a lot in my day, and this both reminds me of how bad some days could be… and how I really, really want to do it again. My favorite was once overhearing a convo in which a guy accused his girlfriend of flirting with his dad; it was in Montreal and they said it in English so that the rest of the (presumably Francophone) place wouldn’t hear. Uh, I speak English, and so does half of the city. It was hilarious.

    Not that it happened to me, but a friend was recently cornered for an hour in a coffee bar by his friend’s ex-girlfriend. The place was TINY and she was LOUD and none too ashamed of ranting about their sex life to my poor friend.

    I’m not going to play with MS Paint. Shelby, you are giving me some VERY bad habits…

  18. Pingback: Tweets that mention Coffee shop shenanigans | eat, drink, run -- Topsy.com

  19. Love it! I always envision how cool it is to work from a coffee shop, but it never works out for me. I am way too easily distracted.

  20. Another classic post. And great comments too. ‘Nuff said!

  21. Oh, you are brilliant.
    And seriously, people who don’t drink coffee at coffee shops? NEED A KICK IN THE HEAD. Posers.

  22. these cartoons are amazing! i used to go to this cafe all the time to do work. they offered free wi-fi and i usually ordered lunch and at least one drink / dessert. THEN THEY COVERED UP ALL OF THE OUTLETS! apparently they wanted customers there, but not for TOO LONG. i don’t go there anymore.

  23. I guarantee you the Power Broker is talking to a dead line and imaginary minions. Cause he’s unemployed and in denial.

  24. LOVED this post. This is hilarious and also so true! I have seen the executive guy who leaves his coffee behind as well as hipsters and those who think they’re in a therapy session and not a coffee shop. Thanks for your great illustrations!

  25. i like the idea of studying in coffee shops but i get so distracted listening in on other people’s conversations…because it’s so much more compelling than my work. i’ll buy a coffee and open my book and be like….oh drama convo? i am so there!

  26. This post = hilarity. Love it. Your Paint skillz are top notch. They keep getting better!

    There were hipsters in your Starbucks? The hipsters around here wouldn’t be caught dead in a corporate anything. Down with the man and all.

    I have to admit, not a lot of time spent in coffee shops. I had my own desk in our design studio in college. That brought with it it’s own unique brand of hilarity.

  27. HAHAHAHA! I totally cracked up on this post. If I remember correctly you used to live in Portland, right? You are so spot on. And it’s so annoying. I’d say the “Super Important Business Guy” is the most annoying. I mean seriously dude, pretend to be important somewhere else!

    Effing Hipsters…

  28. Great post! So true. Although, I will admit, i’m guilty of bringing my own snacks to coffee shops. In my defense I purchase copious amounts of coffee while consuming my own bag of pretzels 🙂

  29. HA! I LOVE overhearing the scandelous conversations at coffee shops. I’ve seen many a DTR and heard many a “I think he might be cheating.” It’s way better than TV.

  30. As a highly skilled nosy eavesdropper, the dramatic and/or awkward conversations are my favorite part of coffee shops. And you can always count on having a few of them going on, because it’s so common to “go grab coffee” as a pretense for either entering, exiting, or examining in exhaustive detail some kind of romantic relationship.

    These cartoons seem to get more LOLtastic with every post. I’m trying to be furtive checking blogs on the sly at work here; you’re making it difficult.

  31. Haha this post is great. From the cats to the humans, all so true.

    But what about studying at the library?

  32. Lol, you’re way too funny! I see we must frequent the same coffee shops. Especially the Oversharers. I’m cool with birth stories and all, but maybe its not exactly the best time to tell it when at least 9 complete strangers can’t help but overhear every single detail. Sometimes watching other possible “Normal” people react to these situations is the funniest! Teenage rebels vs. busy-body, bible thumping grandma. LOL!

  33. I too am studying for a test (in case you didn’t know…you know just in case everyone on the internet didn’t kn0w) and I refuse to study at our local Starbucks. West Hollywood is rampant with hookers, hipsters, and homeless. Starbucks is like some Marxist wet dream where people of all classes come together and sip on the affront to coffee that is a frappucino. Give me the cats any day of the week. I have perfected the cat and laptop on lap combination.

  34. “When I lived in New York, one of my favorite escapes was a particular Starbucks on Ninth Ave in Chelsea. Oh man, those boys could bring the dramz! It was pretty entertaining.”

    wouldn’t happen to be the one across the street from Chelsea market by any chance? that’s my “regular” Sbux 🙂

  35. hahahahahaha. amazing post. I love studying at Starbucks, partially to observe all of the creatures you listed above. You forgot one character I encounter more than I would like: the uppity, well-coiffed UES lady in yoga pants and giant diamonds drinking her skinny latte tawking loudly to a similar counterpart about how awesome she is, how many homes she has and where she’s going to put her new Birkin in her massive walk-in closet. While sitting at a table that I WANT so I can start hours and hours or studying.

    I worked at Sbux in college and we had a customer to fit every description under the sun!

  36. Girl, you hit it dead on. And I love that you said “The Vandalay deal” Effin awesome.

    Please come to Charlotte so we can make fun of hipsters. I went to a hipster place a couple of wknds ago and when I got home, wanted to crawl in a fetal position and rock back n forth.

  37. heheehe, your posts never fail to make me (literally) LOL. I’ve never done work in a Starbucks/coffee shop, but if I ever worked from home I think I’d have to try it out. I am 1000x more productive around people than when I am left to my own devices (ahem, Facebook, blog-reading, grooveshark).

  38. I’m just catching up on my google reader. Hilarious. I was laughing so hard about the girl and guy portion. I’ve done work in a Starbucks before and it really is quite the social experience. Keep up the MS Paint Skillz.

  39. Shelbs, I thought with 43 repsonses, someone would have inquired about what test you are studying for. I suppose the fact that I am in my fourth decade and …still… in school (just 3 more months!) is what makes my eyes particularly attuned to that type of detail. Do tell.

  40. If I was the angry runner I would say this has multiple LOLCOASTERS all over it. But I’m not. but I’m still going to say that….

    this has multiple LOLCOASTERS all over it!!!!!!!!!!!! 😀

  41. HAHA!!!! “the Vandalay deal” – love it!! Those types are international, clearly….I have experienced them in London and Berlin.

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