Every coffee shop has to have a gimmick, some way that makes it stand apart in the midst of franchises and chains. All the tables at Quigley's were for two people only, being so small, and had table placards like the kind you might see on the desk of someone important, little brass signs held in wooden stands. You know, like the kind that bank tellers use to tell you that their window is closed, that kind of thing. Only at Quigley's these little signs had a few options, where you could flip them around and have a choice on what it would say, what those passing by your table would read.

On one side, the sign said We're just friends. Just like that, period and all, engraved on brass sheets. Flip it over and it would say Don't talk to _____, where you can insert him or her, depending on who you were advertising for. I thought this was a pretty nifty idea.

Coffee shops are usually in the crossroads of some educational or social class junction, where people of a certain caliber, race, economic bracket, or interests will convene and do one of a few things: study, read, write, talk, and/or think. This is not to say that people go to coffee shops in expectation of meeting new people, but being one of the last places deemed safe to do so in our PC world, a little visual aid couldn't hurt.

The people at Quigley's might have thought up the placard idea as a joke, but since they've been around since the store opened years ago, regulars come to depend on them to clue them in on exactly where the pairs sitting together stand, either as a couple or individually. The Don't' talk to _____ sign was just ambiguous enough to let whatever person wanted to be left alone be allowed to have that right without feeling the need to be polite. We are such economic creatures with our time, are we not, and so we come to coffee shops with at least one goal in mind, so it came as no surprised that the patrons at Quigley's came to appreciate the establishment in its ability to convey what the populace finds it difficult to say. And in so few words, no doubt. Fascinating.

The Netherlands, (in)famous for their liberal drug policy, have so-called coffee shops, ie. hash bars, where the purchase and use of cannabis products is tolerated.

AFAIK, it is not really legal, because just like most countries on this planet, the Netherlands have signed international treaties that keep them from legalizing THC. But apparently, they decided to set different priorities on what to prosecute - the Netherlands' policy is to let the police do real police work (ie. prosecute crimes that actually do harm to someone), while the possession of small amounts of hash (and some other drugs, e.g. magic mushrooms) is tolerated.

The main argument for tolerating public places where drugs are sold and purchased is this: a coffee shop is a place that authorities can keep an eye on without having to invade someone's privacy, which is a very much regarded ideal in the Netherlands. Compared with a "private" drug dealer, a coffee shop owner is much less likely to start to sell hard drugs, because (s)he would risk a highly profitable business. There's your chance to keep hash users from getting in touch with hard drugs - and, weird enough, this seems to work, at least to a degree.

Now, as marijuana and hash are still illegal products, they cannot be taxed. So there's an agreement of some sort: coffee shop owners sell weed and hash, but to the IRS-like institution they report that they've sold huge amounts of coffee. I gather that's why they're called coffee shops.

From experience, I can tell you that there are coffee shops that don't really sell coffee or any liquid at all, perhaps with the exception of hash oil.

“The café is not a place a man goes for a drink, but a place he goes to in order to drink in company” describes Pierre Bourdieu in Distinction (1984). It is a social consumption space, that enables certain types of interactions, and in many societies it is a major cultural institution.

The evolution of coffee shop as a socializing place differs greatly across cultures, yet some common themes seem to emerge. Though people were certainly gathering to share food, drink and company since the earliest days of humanity, the coffee house as we currently know it had its origins in seventeenth century Europe. A treasure of Europe’s colonial exploits, coffee fueled the establishment of local centers of political, social and cultural life. In England these coffee shops lead to the development of the daily newspaper and the home delivery of mail (prior to that all the news was gathered in such public spaces); whereas in Vienna coffee shops were a necessary public place to go and relax, obtain social contact.

In America coffee shops have long been a center of small town life, however, in recent years coffee shops have experienced a tremendous surge of popularity throughout the United States. This has been in part due to the push of major corporate coffee house chains, one of which is monstrous Starbucks, which currently owns about 7,000 shops, or about half of the total U.S. coffee shops.

I just moved. I miss my coffee shop.

I went there for years. I knew the staff, the owner, and where they all lived. I knew the drinks, knew which barristas could make what I wanted the way I liked and which ones I just needed to order something simple from. I knew that the table next to the fountain got the best traffic for socializing, but was the worst place to get work done; I knew that the stool near the abstract sculpture wobbled, but that wobble could be fun if you could make someone sit on it when you talked.

.In my coffee shop, I was a person. I could walk in, sit down with friends, and my drink would appear without being ordered. At the end of the night, I could just walk to the bar and settle a tab--the street cred I had to develop to be able to run a tab was something I committed a lot of social capital to achieve. The owner used to be my landlord, two of the baristas used to be students, three were colleagues, and I went on an (albeit) blind date with another.

It wasn't the cheapest coffee house in town, and it wasn't the they fastest at slinging a cup of joe. It was recently remodeled, but looked like it's only a week away from demolition. When they installed booths I cried a little bit, and when they got rid of that stupid dada painting some freshman art student talked them into putting on the walls I did a jig of glee. But at the end of the day, it was my coffee shop--I knew its nuances and felt more at home there than at my house.

I don't miss the town, the house, and most of the people in it. But I miss my 6:30am double-almond-amaretto-white chocolate-mocha; it's what made 6:30am worth getting up for. sometimes I worry that the shop is a metaphor, and sometimes I worry it's not.

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