Gusts of heavy wind blow through my already-tussled hair as I get out of my car. Combing my shaggy mass with my fingers, I quickly pop my Texas Rangers brim cap over top of it to keep it down. I grab my laptop case and pat my pockets to determine possession of my wallet and phone before I shut and lock the car door. I’m at a vintage-hip coffee shop in the similarly styled metro city of Dallas known as Grapevine, Texas, and I’m here for the same reason everyone else is; it’s a cool place. And it serves fantastic coffee.
Walking from my parking spot toward the front sidewalk sitting area of the coffee shop, I’m thinking I look pretty fly with my just-washed and still-tight jeans and cool t-shirt. Probably not, though, but why should I trifle over such a triviality?
There are several tables and chairs arranged outside the shop and several loyal customers are seated around them drinking coffee and chatting amiably. I smile just slightly to those who look at me as I encounter the front door. I let my eyes adjust to the dimmer light source as I enter and nod to the employee whose friendship I’ve gained as a semi-regular customer. He’s a nice guy and he nods in return as I keep heading toward the back of the surprisingly large and long tube-shaped store.
It’s the people who make a place into a community. And this coffee shop has a variety of them. A middle-aged couple is sitting and chatting in the upholstered chairs near the front window. The barstools pushed under a wraparound shelf on the other side of the front chairs are empty, but they won’t be for long. It’s still only 4 o’ clock. At the square tables situated in the middle section of the store are more varieties of coffee drinkers; mostly creative types. The bits of conversation I overhear as I continue walking to the back point toward two amateur moviemakers discussing a new deal at the first table all the way back to a laughing group of college kids huddled around a small table playing scrabble while probably supposed to be doing homework. I notice there are new paintings on the wall opposite my habitual spot as a lady in a ball cap is working quietly on her laptop just underneath them.
Ah, my favorite spot is not yet occupied. Plopping my laptop case on my table, I head back toward the cash counter and gaze undecidedly at the chalkboard menus while knowing full well which drink I’m going to order; I always order it. I’ve only ordered one other drink, and that was the pretty-good mocha before I discovered the rich beauty of a raspberry chai latte.
The nice guy behind the counter already knows my name and order. I grab a couple of handout peppermints as I pull out my debit card. This place requires a signature on the receipt which I horribly mangle. No worries though, it’s not like it’s an autograph or anything.
“Mug for here, right? he asks. “Be right out.”
That’s another addition to the likable rawness of the place; who would actually sit down to drink coffee in a paper cup? It just seems absurd. One needs a mug and a table at which to sit to adequately appreciate the atmosphere.
Back at my table I unzip my laptop case and carefully remove my Apple MacBook Pro. My big oversized headphones come out next as I situate myself and my gadgets in preparation for a long sit. Free wi-fi is another attraction to the geek and business culture here. For me it’s the secondary reason that I come, or possibly the primary, but I try to be loyal to the in-house roasted beans that form the foundation of the coffee shop.
From my perch near the back I always sit facing the entrance and thereby gain clear view of incoming customers. It’s a male trait that requires one to never have his back to a door. It just wouldn’t be right if I was betrayed by my posse and shot in the back, would it? Completely outdated Wild West, I know. But regardless, it’s still the perfect place from which to observe life.
Communities from ages past gathered around the fireplace. Any establishment that offered a roof and a warm fire was the place to meet, swap gossip, and hear about current events. The roof has remained true, but in today’s modern comfort the centerpiece of sociality has morphed from burning firewood to roasted beans.
As I work on my laptop I look up from time to time and look around at the constant movement of this community. Stretching, I check my smartphone for new messages before taking another sip of my raspberry chai. It’s an interesting place. Somewhat odd, but a thriving one nonetheless. It’s a community built on the demand for beans.