Don’t Drink Your Coffee in a Coffee Shop

How long can you outstay your welcome in a coffee shop? I’m sure you already know that you can do this without any purchase and not have any of the personnel bother you. You can sit outside and have a smoke, or stay inside, talk to a friend or pretend to wait for your order, or a friend, or a date who never shows up.

But what if you want to stay for a really long time? Whether you’ve got a book to read or papers to study or a laptop to do whatever business you can do with it, you will eventually need to make a purchase of at least their cheapest product—maybe a lollipop or extra syrup.

Right now, I am sitting alone in a Greenbelt coffee shop on a Friday night, and I hope you do not think I am square for hanging out with myself when everyone’s in costume celebrating Halloween tonight. It’s past ten in the evening, I can see people in line for their orders, no seats guaranteed. And here I am, sitting on one of the shop’s woven chairs with aluminum framing, one-third of my espresso pistachio biscotti left, and it’s been more than an hour since. “Ooh, her biscotti’s left alone while she’s doing something else. And look—crumbs all over—she’s made a little mess which means she must be busy or too enthralled with her other activity that she cannot even mind her food that much.” In reality though, I want to mind it more than you think, give it the attention it deserves; it’s food, for crying out loud. But as long as I plan to stay here, I cannot gobble this hard biscuit which we call biscotti.

Now that’s exactly why you cannot consume what you order in a coffee shop at a time like this. There are at least a dozen pair of eyes prying for an empty seat. It’s a tough competition—how do you stay in line AND race to that vacant spot AND leave your bag on the table to mark your territory? You need strategy and a quick response to this crisis, especially without a buddy around. If you already have a table, you are no target for this as long as you leave some food or coffee on your table. Leave your partially bitten cookie or half-eaten cheesecake on the plate. Again, make sure you have crumbs on the table to add some drama, how you’ve ignored your edibles for another. If drinking a frappuccino, make sure there’s some content left and make sure it’s in view. If it’s in a paper cup, then it won’t be a problem. Pretend to sip once in a while to dodge any doubt from unseated customers.

Bottom line is, you have immunity from being kicked out of the place as long as you have your leftovers displayed. Besides, you are only getting your money’s worth, right? You really do have every right to stay where you are, you just need to showcase your evidence if you don’t want the awkward glances that 1. look at you 2. look at the door where you can exit 3. look at the food and drink they are holding 4. look at you again.

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