European Seating

Yesterday was massage day. Typically, once a month, I drive 25 minutes to Boulder to get a massage. Since my business is out of my home, it’s a big deal for me to literally get out of town.

This day, I left early since I had some Christmas shopping to do. I also planned to stop and buy some quality coffee beans at The Brewing Market off of Folsom. Specifically Panama beans, which I feel are the best beans that The Brewing Market roasts.

The dreaded arctic cold front was making its way east and I could see wintry clouds and what looked like snow moving in from Nederland and the foothills above Boulder. With the temperature hovering around 25 degrees, there were still a few die hards working on laptops outside of the cafe. “Hardy souls”, I thought to myself as I made my way inside. 

Since there were no employees at the bean side of things I decided to have a small three shot latte and why not have a piece of strawberry rhubarb pie as well? Strawberry rhubarb pie is quintessential summer fare in my opinion and this would be my way of thumbing my nose at a frigid, cloudy December day. Upon taking my plate of pie while waiting for my drink I realized why there were patrons seated outside; nary a table was free inside. But the coffee gods were on my side as two folks vacated a table just as I made way across the small cafe. Guiltily, I sat down at a table for four. The place was busy and I wasn’t keen on occupying just 25% of this precious space. But, what is a guy to do?

I had some time to kill and fuddled about on my phone catching up on some Words With Friends with my sisters in Pennsylvania. (I take pleasure in beating both my older sisters typically 2 to 1 over the course of our many years battle in virtual Scrabble) 

A gentleman made his way across the cafe looking for a place to sit, when it was quite obvious there were no free tables. As he came back by me I invited him to share the table that I was seated at. “There are two of us”, he replied and offered to take my already empty plate of pie back to the bussing bin. 

In America, we love our personal space and boundaries. When I lived in Europe I realized that there was no such thing as personal space. Step onto the tram (light rail, we call it here) and be prepared to have an armpit in your face as you ride ten minutes downtown. At cafes in particular, space is at a premium, like trying to find a rental in downtown Denver these days. So, everybody grabs an open seat regardless of whether a table is occupied. I’ve always heard it referred to as “european seating”, but oddly enough even Wikipedia doesn’t know about european seating.

I was privileged to spend thirty minutes with Philip and Olivia while I had coffee, and they had tea and quiche. We talked about our kids (he has two grown children and a stepchild). We discovered how we all ended up in Colorado. We chatted about our careers and how making money isn’t so important anymore as it is to live life fully and find balance. She used to be a dancer, stepped away from it for some time and now is training to become a Zumba teacher. He was finding a way, now in his 60’s, to cut back on work so that he has more time to do things he enjoys and spend time with Olivia.

Checking the time, I was saddened that I had to excuse myself in order to make it over to the northeast side of town to get to my massage appointment. As I stood, Philip also stood and shook my hand goodbye. I reached over and took Olivia’s hand and thanked her for the nice conversation. Walking across the parking lot, tiny sparkles of snow falling on the pavement, I realized my day had been made better because a coffee shop was doing a brisk business on a Tuesday afternoon. Hours later I thought about how I never did buy those coffee beans.

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