The advance and decline of the coffee shop

It’s a funny thing.

I sat in a coffee shop on Friday, on my own, for the first time in a while. The first time I sat in a coffee shop in the UK, it was 12 years ago. Sauchiehall Street in Glasgow to be precise. The Seattle Coffee Company, it was called, and it was COOL. That’s in capitals for a reason. At the time, coffee was something you made in a mug with instant powder, or bought in a polystyrene cup from a takeaway.

Seattle was the HQ of coffee – and there was a branch opening in Glasgow! Mind, this was before the Internet, so we didn’t know any better.

But me and the guys from work went in and were amazed… it was bright, it was friendly, it was welcoming and the coffee? It was amazing. It had cream! On top of it! None of us had seen anything like it before!

We still went in, and we spoke to people. We spoke to the staff, the punters, and anyone that would listen to. Indeed, I spoke to the staff so much, we struck up a friendship, and when those staff left to start their own coffee shop, we followed. I still go in now and then, and I still recognise them, and they still recognise me, even a decade on.

Which brings me to Friday.

I bought my coffee. I spoke to the woman making it, the barista as they’re now called… but it felt forced; she was speaking to fill in time. The minute my coffee was poured, conversation was over. Simple as that. It was corporate conversation, if that makes sense.

In any case, I went to an empty table. Did I try to strike up a conversation, like those heady days 12 years ago? No, I looked at my phone, accessed the free wi-fi and went on to Twitter. Looking around, people in the shop were doing the same – on phones, laptops, even iPads. The art of conversation has died; been swept away in the flood of technology.

I’m happy I can can plug into my phone, and talk instantly to people on the other side of the world, it really is amazing to think about… but the downside seems to be the simple act of talking to the person three feet to your left? It’s not as easy as it used to be.

I wonder what the me of 1999 would think of the me now if we bumped into each other without recognising each other in that coffee shop in Sauchiehall Street.

Old me would probably think that present me was self-absorbed, and stuck up, maybe even crack a joke to the staff. Present me? He’d guess that the battery on Old me’s mobile phone was dead, that’s why he was talking to real people.

Somewhere, there’s a happy medium. There has to be.

Author: Tony

I am... I'm me. I will, you'll see. Or... you know, I might not. Depends if it's raining or not, and there might be a cool flick on TV.

2 thoughts on “The advance and decline of the coffee shop”

  1. 12 years ago was ‘before the internet’ really?….. 1999?…….at the height of the dot com boom?

    See now if you’d said that in a coffee bar I’d have put you right.

    Coffee shops are shit now though.

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