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The Social Contract of the Coffee Shop

As a traveling artisan, comedian, writer, voice actor, and bohemian extraordinaire (see: Homeless Person), I often find myself in a strange city with nowhere to go, and nothing to do except watch Netflix and write mostly unread blog entries.

(Approximation of my adulting life)

This usually finds me in a Starbucks, Panera, or some local chain, making the most of their fine caffeinated beverages, and of course, their free internets.

But, as anyone who has ever tried to get that epic screenplay or great American novel written can tell you, it's not all sunshine and dark roasts when leeching off of the resources of your local java spot. Fortunately for all of you, this weary traveler is a denizen of the drip, a citizen of the land of coldbrew, and I am here to lay out the social contract that exists between baristas and ba-resters:

FIRST THING FIRST: You must understand the principle behind a social contract. For those who haven't heard the term, or have but aren't well versed in just what it entails, please let me utilize my useless $115,000 Philosophy B.A. degree just this one time for something, please. Please? The Social Contract is an agreement, not written, but implicit and understood among the denizens of a society or group to allow or disallow certain ideas, actions, and behaviors for the shared benefit of all. There's a way we decide to do things for purpose, and everyone lives under that standard. It's like merging into traffic; everyone uses the zipper move, every time, always...until that one piece of shit decides they're special, and uses their SUV to block out the Kia that clearly is next in the zipper.

In this same way, there are rules, RULES I TELL YOU, for proper coffee shop etiquette. While the minimum-wage Art History major behind the counter may not boot you for not following these rules, everyone else will know you are a social standard breaking garbage-fire of a person if you don't, so just do them. 1) BUY SOMETHING

They're a business, and while it's easy if you're well dressed and white to just walk into a store and used the restroom without making a purchase, something about sitting in a room for 7 hours without buying is a bit much.

($4 artisan pop-tarts at Starbucks, because FUCK YOU!!)

That being said, on the other side of the social contract, there's no dollars-to-minutes requirement, so please, put in your cheapest/worst effort. I mean, you're not here cause you have Scrooge McDuck money.


Hey gang. We're all in this together, spinning around on this big blue/green marble, and even though pretty much everybody out there is a self-centered miserable asshat, that's not a reason to let someone's stuff get jacked right in front of you.

Starbucks, Panera, or your local coffee spot are places where all poverty stricken artsy type sucklers at the free internet teet can come together, and with one mind, one voice, notice that the girl with the macbook who got up to pee isn't the same person as the shady dude in the hoodie grabbing her laptop and running out the side door.

See something, say something...or at least have the decency to tweet a description of the suspect to the local police afterward.


YOU!!! Yeah, I'm talking to YOU right now, guy who sits next to the only electric outlet in the place, plugs in 4 devices at a time, and puts your computer bag, backpack, and trash on the other 3 seats near the outlet so no one can get some juice. Knock it off, you power hungry hungry hippo.

(Get it together, dipshit)

No one likes you. And yes, we will, as a group, shoot you all kinds of disdaining looks from across the room, as we all huddle around the one other outlet and take 10 minute turns plugging our phones and tables in.


One thing every coffee spot has in common is that they will, always, without a doubt, play what is just about the worst kind of music ever accidentally recorded onto a permanent format for rebroadcast. Whatever soul/funk/jazz/folk/acoustic/electronica/ska/pseudo-punk infusion that some douche at the home office decided we should all bleed out of our ears to this week will inevitably be coming out of the precariously inescapable speakers.

It is literally the 2nd worst thing that any of us who don't have earbuds and the ability to turn our devices up to 120 decibels could be forced to listen to...just behind whatever dreck you decided to play. I'd rather hear their album of Ed Sheeran fingerblasting the bassist from Mumford & Sons while Lil Yachty attempts to pronounce big-boy words than the bullshit you think is good.

Jesus, why would any of us want to hear your music, you insufferable loser, hanging out in a coffee shop all day using their free internet to "get famous" with your "killer movie script." We all have the great American novel to write over here!!! Keep it down!!


The coffee shop Social Contract does, eventually, create a standoff between Store Manager wanting to open up sitting space for paying customers who plan to stay for a reasonable amount of time, enjoying their tasty beverage and scone, and us, the shiftless layabout loiterers. This battle, usually, comes in the form of a contest of wills centered around the thermostat.

See, working in a Starbucks is a hot job, crammed in so close to coffee makers and milk steamers. As such, it's nice to keep the ambient temperature down a little. This is not why these places are freezing as balls. That's to drive us out.

Now, before you come in with some ridiculous argument, such as "it's marketing..if you're cold, you'll buy more hot beverages;" then explain to me why the iced coffee is always so much more fucking expensive than a hot coffee? I mean, they fill it with ice...made from WATER, reducing the overall amount of caffeinated bean juice in the cup they give you buy up to HALF, and yet they charge 30 - 40% more for that shit. REALLY!?!?!?!?!? No, my friend, the frozen wasteland feeling is to keep you moving, not their profits.


It is a fine and tender road to walk, this careful balancing act of java shop navigation. Filled with woe and sorrow, as well as the joy and wonder of 3 1/2 hours of dog-makes-friends-with-monkey videos. Follow these simple guidelines, and all will be as it should in the Social Contract of coffee maker and coffee space taker. Follow me: Twitter: @MarkViolaComedy

Instagram: @MarkViolaComedy

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