Wednesday, November 12, 2008

My Chair!

Portland is often referred to as a City of Cafes. (Seattle had the title first, of course.) And I have certainly fallen in love with my cafe time. There is something really soothing about taking my work to a cafe, sitting over coffee or loose-leaf tea, and reading amidst the hum of espresso machines and intellectual conversations. I'm not a snob about corporate versus independent companies, though I admit, I will never think of going to Starbucks as soothing. Starbucks is for "on-the-go" caffeine grabbing. But I will often settle into Peet's or even Barnes and Noble - if for no other reason than they are close and consistent. I also love Fleur de Lis which is independent and beginning to thrive as a destination point for my lovely Hollywood neighborhood.

Anyway...soothing - but not lately. Why? Chairs.

Once again I find myself amazed at the self-involvement of people. Where many of the cafes I frequent used to be filled mostly with loners and couples - something has shifted, and the cafe is becoming quite the social gathering spot. Whole families are showing up to suck coffee and space. They arrive, look around, and this expression of utter shock spreads across their faces as they spy nothing but bistro tables flanked by two chairs. They have walked in with a spouse, three kids, and sometimes with another family as if they are all going to pose for a portrait entitled Americano Americana.

Now...once realizing the cafe was not designed like Applebee's, you'd think they might re-think the plan.

Two days ago I was at Peet's, waiting for a dramaturgy client. This is my favorite place to meet clients as it is so easy to get to, but as this location is very popular with the neighborhood locals, I do find myself anxious about finding a table. I got lucky on this day. In the corner, nestled away. Ahhhh.....soothing. I was fifteen minutes early for my meeting. As I'm finalizing my notes, this man walks up and tries to take the chair from the other side of my table. He doesn't even ask.

I stop him. "Oh, I'm sorry, but I'm waiting for someone. I have a meeting here in a few minutes."

He grumbles. "My kids need a place to sit."

I look over at his brood. Three kids, a wife, and another couple. Yes. Seven people. They have hijacked the table that is reserved for those with disabilities - as it's the only large table - and can accommodate a whopping three chairs. Not seven. They have managed to pull the table away from the window, blocking part of the pathway to the cash register. His wife and her friend are sitting one-ass-cheeked on the window sill. They have managed to squash four chairs around the table already. I notice that there are now two bistro tables completely naked - no chairs at all, because they have been amputated by this man.

I smile. "I'm sorry, but you can't take my chair. My client needs a place to sit."

He glares. "What? You don't have a real office?"

I smile again. "No I don't. And I guess you don't have any real manners."

He stomped off. I silently fumed at the stupidity of people. And yes, I got petty. I looked over at this ridiculous sight - drinking their coffee, feeling trendy, but irritable because they had no "real" table at which to sit. They had, as I already mentioned, pushed the table out into the pathway. I made a mental measurement. And I called over to the manager who was stocking some napkins.

"You know, those people have moved the table, and it looks like there's less than three feet now in the walkway. Isn't that a fire code violation? I know it seems silly, but I get really paranoid about these things. Call me neurotic!" I laughed. Fake but convincing.

She looked at the table. Sighed. Looked back at me. Rolled her eyes. "You're right, and that is ridiculous. What do we look like, Applebee's?" She made her way to the table and told them to move. I looked back down at my work. I heard loud grumbles and stomping. And then I looked back to see the table empty - back in its proper spot. And the manager and I shared a wink.

Leave my chair alone.


Andrea said...

Hmmm. As a person with two children I find this post a little family unfriendly! I even on occasion find myself in the rain with another mom and her two kids needing a place to go fairly quickly to get out of the weather and get the kids a snack. Granted, one needs to be polite and ask management before making accommodations, and there is no need for rudeness to others, and adult laps work just great...but I am NOT going to Applebees just because I have kids...Seems like is this case the guy was just rude on all accounts. Not all people with families or in groups are and I for one, intende to continue frequenting my favorite coffee shops with my family even though we might be a little loud and a little bigger of a group than a single person.

Just my thoughts.


MattyZ said...

You go, Andrea, with your bad mama self!

And the difference is - you are NOT rude and you DON'T walk around with a sense of entitlement. In this case, this was clearly a family who made this their destination point. And they stole all the chairs and managed to invonvenience tons of patrons with their self involved behavior.

So I agree - families are welcome - just be considerate. And FYI, the lovely Fleur de Lis mentioned in my post IS very family friendly. They have a play corner, long tables for groups, high chairs, and a great staff that knows how to deal with kids.


Mead said...

I wish I had been there to see the look on the lug's face! Good for you, MBZ, you're the tops, you're the coliseum.

Anonymous said...

Oh my god knowledge from retail. Actually useful. I think I would have been less nice.