I admit I’m a late bloomer when it comes to being an urban, hip, cool, “my office is a coffee shop,” “I only own a Mac” kind of person. I’ve avoided coffee shops in the past because…I’m broke…but I also found them intimidating. (It was really the “I’m broke” part that kept me out.) I’ve secretly peered into coffee shop windows where I observed hordes of trendy, skinny-jeaned people typing effortlessly. Something about their not really fixed but perfectly fixed gelled hair, flannel shirts, and whiffs of espresso made their lives seem significantly more put together than mine. I’ve recently stumbled into the world of comedy writing. Out of complete panic of deadliness and sheer lunacy at home, I’ve found myself plunked between the business guy who talks too loud and the goth teen who shouldn’t be drinking caffeine.
It’s taken me a bit, but I’ve mastered a few coffee shop skills that help mislead people into thinking I’m only partially incapable of being “au courant” in a coffee shop. I’m passing on my wealth of knowledge so that you, too, can look like less of an idiot while conducting your business in a coffee shop.
Don’t Whack People in the Head with Your Computer Bag. They don’t really like that. Something about the shock of an unexpected object striking them from behind, mixed with agonizing pain, compounded with accidentally dumping their hot coffee down the front of their $300 yard sale-looking shirt is apparently upsetting to them. I’ve found it’s good to practice walking the minefield of clustered chords, chairs and Tom’s shoes all over the coffee shop floor. Think an airplane aisle with luggage, only add in high heels and carrying scalding hot coffee. This can be a bit tricky. I’ve found it’s worth taking the time to set up a training course beforehand. (Word of Advice-best not to use your kids as pretend “coffee shop patrons,” due to the scalding hot coffee aspect.)
Master the “Nonchalant Plunk” to Avoid Your Middle School Years. Remember standing in the junior high cafeteria holding your lunch tray when your one true friend wasn’t at school that day? Do you recall being overtaken by that overwhelming fear, insecurity, and pure dismay of “where do I sit?” That fear NEVER DIES. I recommend avoiding this in a coffee shop setting by mastering the “Nonchalant Plunk.” Before ordering, scan the room as if looking for a friend. Locate what appears to be an empty seat, then nonchalantly plunk your bag down. THEN go order. By doing this you avoid the embarrassment of the “Hey, I was sitting here” mean coffee shop bully. If you’ve mistakenly taken a chair that was set aside for people better than you, you can simply say, “I was just setting my bag here while I ordered.” Then you can pick up your bag, plunk it somewhere else, and go cry in the bathroom.
Try Your Best to Remember You’re Broke BEFORE Ordering. I don’t know if I mentioned this previously, but I’m perpetually broke. As an actor/writer it apparently comes with the territory. I’ve discovered it’s best to remember this BEFORE ordering something you can’t afford. The realization AFTER you spew such impulsive words out of your mouth as “Extra-large mocha with an extra shot of espresso with the largest muffin because I’m feeling extra depressed today” is too late. The frantic scouring for money-any money-at the bottom of your pocket, purse, wallet…tip jar…to cover your monstrous order can be somewhat embarrassing. Do the rooting in your car, couch or kid’s pants pockets beforehand in order to avoid the sighs and impatient groans of the wealthier, more responsible people standing in line behind you.
Become Skilled at the 4 Count Chord Tango. Plugging in your computer isn’t as simple as it initially appears. Plugging in your chord takes a vast amount of energy and concentration to give off the illusion that it’s effortless. There’s the awkward bending over without bending over to reach the outlet. Next, the non-whacking of the head on the table, fake fireplace, phony tree, or overstocked coffee cup shelf when rising back up to a standing position. Finally, there’s the recovery from the light-headedness you experience from the overexertion and stress caused by the entire song and dance of acting like you’re more put together and graceful than you really are. To counter this, I’ve discovered the 4 count chord tango-which means taking it low and slow. First, bend at the knees to lower yourself in a more appropriate position than the usual and less sophisticated bend-at-the-waist-so-my-back-end-hangs-out view. (Count 1.) (This can be accomplished by the sticking out of one leg for more stability-i.e. TANGO-if needed.) Next, reach and plug. (Count 2.) Dodge your head. (Count 3.) Rise and smile. (Count 4.) Repeat until you’ve successfully mastered the above without counting and mouthing the words out loud. The mouthing or speaking out loud can scare the goth teen and the business guy trying to look up your skirt while you’re bending over.
Mask Your Self-Deprecation, Insecurity, Fear of Failure, ADHD and Other Happy Attributes of Like-Minded Writers. When staring at the blank page, it’s a good idea not to pound your forehead with your fist trying to jolt any ounce of creativity and competency lose in your brain, sigh and pound your face into the table when ingenious doesn’t happen, cry when you decide to check your bank balance to see if the coffee charge “bounced,” laugh hysterically at YouTube videos you’re watching when you’re supposed to be working, eavesdrop noticeably at happy people while muttering your jaded bitterness over their bliss within ear reach, and exhibit other happy qualities you may in fact possess as a writer or fellow artist. Rather, learn to limit your complete ineptness to a dull twitch or two, which you can then casually blame on too much caffeine.
If you follow these few important tips, you, too, can pass on the illusion of pure coffee shop competence.
If you’ve found this post even remotely alluring, allow me to beg you to pass it on, like my Facebook page, or follow my blog-anything that makes me appear more important to other people than I really am-because apparently, I’m supposed to do that.
Stacy Pederson is a Colorado based Humorist and Funny Motivational Speaker who is incessantly insecure with a chronic Thai Food / Netflix binge habit.