Best of 2020

Six Times People Seemed to Be Leaving Their Tables at the Crowded Coffee Shop, But Were Not

10:00 a.m.

A man stood up, but it turned out he only wanted to stretch before sitting back down.

11:00 a.m.

A woman put on her Montreal Expos jacket, but she was just cold. On the bright side, neat jacket.


A woman spent some time rummaging through her backpack, but when she finished she took out a 600-page book called A Book to Read in Your Comfy Seat at the Coffee Shop.

2:00 p.m.

A man took out a pack of American Spirit cigarettes and said “time to go out for a smoke.” But then, as he was about to stand, images of his wife and young children flashed before his eyes. He thought about how heartbroken they would be if he weren’t around anymore. He resolved to give up smoking forever, and flung his cigarettes into the garbage. He rewarded himself with a mug of peppermint tea. I was happy for him, but still had no seat.

4:00 p.m.
A woman had recently started drinking a second large latte. In retrospect, there was no reason to think she was leaving. My mistake.

6:00 p.m.
A man in a flannel shirt stacked his mug and saucer, getting ready to bus his table and leave… nope, he was making room to open his laptop. In an attempt to forge a compromise, I sat on his lap and opened my book next to his computer. Selfishly, this fellow insisted that he alone was entitled to the seat (although it was in a public place and I had as much of a claim to it as anyone else). I tried to explain that there was scarcity: the supply of seats fell far short of the demand, and the situation was not going to improve on its own. While this wasn’t his fault, the only civilized solution was for us to work together and ration the seats for the benefit of all tired, coffee-loving people. But it was no use; the man had been in the seat too long and took for granted that a just universe had bestowed it upon him because of his virtue. He had no interest in listening. He shoved me from his lap. Fatigued after hours of standing and without caffeine, I was powerless to fight back and found myself stumbling away, the book knocked from my hands to the coffee-stained floor. To make matters worse, I was arrested and thrown in prison. In my cell, I can sit. Could you please bring me some coffee?