Stereotyping Never Felt So Good

by Amelia Kanan

My office closed last week and when I say “office” I mean, an independent Detroit coffee shop named Thistle. I decided to write my CBS blog this week about it and when I say “I”, I mean “someone other than me”. I just finished it and had to omit a big chunk because #1 it’s already way too long (I hate that I don’t have a word limit because I can always just keep going) and #2 it’s just not very appropriate. So…the first paragraph is what I omitted and then after that, I just added on for this blog in particular (I won’t make anyone read anything double).

All throughout high school and college I lived at my local coffee shop. You know the kind, a place that has open mics, patrons who buy one thing and stay all day, some kind of “question of the day” at the register and young people who treat it like it’s their living room. In high school, I didn’t drink coffee but it wasn’t about the beverages. It was my Cheers (only it was called “Cups”). Everybody knew my name and my day-to-day trivial dramas. I would bring my notebook and pen (this was before the laptop craze), the book I was reading and my depressed adolescent attitude. I wasn’t there to do anything in particular but maybe I’d write or chat with people a decade or two older than me about life (as if I knew so much then). When I went to college in Chicago, I had the exact kind of coffee shop called “Gourmand” where all of my friends worked. Since I was out of my teens, I began to see more reasons for it other than a place to hang out. It became a sort of library equipped with distraction when I needed a break, smoke lots of cigarettes, coffee to keep me going strong and wine for de-stressing. A place where I could get some last-minute encouragement before an interview or test. It was a home away from home, where a family existed and solace could always be found.

After Gourmand closed and I moved cities, I grew annoyed with the coffee shop environment. There always seemed to be the same people with the same stories, just different faces. The 60-year-old man who loved his cats, read the newspaper and loved talking to “the young kids”. The really young and newly “out” LGBT who was either intimidating because they were really cool or extremely external because they finally feel so free. The “Friends” group, the ones who work and live there. Even though I didn’t know these particular people, I still felt like I knew them all, had listened to their stories, heard their dramas and been their friend before. Don’t think this apathetic attitude turned me off. What’s funny though is even though I had no desire to get to know them, I still found their presence comforting. When you move to a new city, you seek out familiarity. Target, bike rides, used book stores and coffee shops are those familiar staples. Target smells the same everywhere and stocking up on home items, magazines, candles and crap I don’t need fills the occasional void of homesickness. Bike rides always make me feel like a kid, free and hopeful. Used book stores are also pretty much the same everywhere and when you are living in a city where you don’t have many friends, hours alone can be lost just browsing. That brings me to coffee shops, although I no longer have that emotional need to make friends with the regulars of these independent establishments, I still find myself comforted not just by the free WiFi, good coffee and comfortable seating but by watching the regulars. Witnessing these stereotyped characters, in a brand new location is incredibly reassuring. It eases me into the realization that “life goes on”, “all your needs can always be met no matter where you live” and “you’ll always make new friends and meet new people”.

Thistle was this place for me, here in Detroit and now, due to a horrible landlord, it’s gone. But, just like Thistle and all the other coffee houses whispered before “Life goes on” and I’ll make a new friend.