Have you ever been a regular at a café or deli? Regular enough that the people behind the counter ask if you want ’the usual’ or even type your order in without asking at all?
Those of us who have know there are some quirks about this experience that non-regulars don’t seem to notice. One of those things is assigned seating.
I don’t know of any café that puts names on the seats, but you better believe every regular has their favorite chair or corner table. There are passive aggressive fights over optimal seating. Customers will come in 5, 10, 30 minutes earlier, just to get their seat. I know, I’m one of them!
The café I love to write at has a small indoor seating area and a larger patio seating area. I have preferred seating in both of these sections depending on the weather and my health status. Outside, there is a mix of tables at chairs, and couches great for lounging. Scattered umbrellas ensure plenty of shade from the summer sun. But not all seats are equal! My favorite spot is a corner couch piece under a huge cantalevered umbrella along the side of the café. I can see everyone coming and going from that spot, and I get morning sun while being shaded from the hot afternoon. The couch is cozy, I love putting my feet up, but it’s not always the best spot to focus. Since the couch is a sectional that surrounds a center table, two or three groups of people can sit there at a time, making it a popular corner for conversation. The couch also isn’t great at providing back support when I need it.
Inside the café is tricky, as the layout occasionally changes! In the center of the room, beside lovely windows, is the air conditioner. This vent is pointed straight down, and the air that blasts from it might as well come from the arctic: it’s freezing! Currently there’s a tall communal table that sits under the AC, and when the café is packed, this long table is the main turnover for people who only stay long enough to pick up their coffee and run.
On either side of the tall table are tables with chairs on one side and a wall bench on the other, and one of those corners butts up against the sugar cart. It’s that table against the cart that I have claimed for myself. From the wall bench there I can see the door, most of the patio, the entire café, and I’m away from the air conditioner (mostly). I also have a chance to point out the sugar when people get confused. That happens more than you’d think.
I arrive at the café variably around 8am. This morning I was here at 7:30. This morning, someone was seated at my table. This happens occasionally, and I’ll take one of the less-desireable seats for a few minutes until they finish up, then I can sneak in and claim my appropriate seat.
// We interrupt this blog post to move the computer to the favorite seat in question!//
But this morning, my seat was claimed by Another Regular! This is the worst kind of situation. Because all the regulars know each other, we also know how long we lounge around the café. And this regular, in MY chair, likes to sip her coffee and read the news on her ipad for at least two hours.
I’m not going to begrudge anyone their morning ritual, I enjoy my slow mornings myself, but she was in my chair! And I’m not about to make a scene in my favorite café. I’m not that petty.
But dammit, I can’t get comfortable at the tall table and most of the others have an AC vent pointed at them, leaving me too chilly to think, let alone write!
Thankfully, I tend to show up early, and that means I almost always get my unassigned seat.