A Letter on Justice and Open Tables

Our coffee shop is facing a moment of trial. Powerful protests for social justice are leading to overdue changes to the specialty menus, along with wider calls for greater options of loose-leaf tea blends and the inclusion of diverse voices at open mic night. But this needed reckoning has also intensified a new set of moral attitudes and political commitments that tend to weaken my claim to my favorite seat by the window and toleration of my extended occupation of the same. As I applaud the first development, I also raise my voice against the second.

The forces of international coffee franchises are gaining strength throughout the world and have a powerful ally in that shop across the street that represents a real threat to the fauxhemian air towards which this block aspires. But resistance must not be allowed to harden into its own brand of oppression—which That Jerk sitting in my chair is already exploiting. The comfortable setting I want can be achieved only if I speak out against the intolerant climate that has set in on all sides.

The free exchange of coffee and my ideas, the lifeblood of a liberal society, is daily becoming more constricted. While I have come to expect this from my ideological opponents, censoriousness is also spreading more widely in this very bistro: an intolerance of my right to sit where I please, a vogue for public banishment and ostracism, and the tendency to dissolve complex issues of seating arrangements in a blinding moral certainty. I uphold the value of robust and even caustic declarations of claims to countertop space from all quarters. But it is now all too common to hear calls for swift and severe annexations of tables long known to be favored by yours truly.

More troubling still, part-time Assistant Manager Brent, in a spirit of panicked damage control, keeps delivering hasty and disproportionate apologies to me instead of forcing That Jerk out of my spot. Many of my work friends have shared in hushed whispers ominous stories of similar mistreatments in other coffee shops towards which I now might vaguely gesture sans details as though to try and limply elicit increased dread. Whatever the arguments about this particular incident, the result has been to steadily narrow the boundaries of where I may sit comfortably with my laptop. I am already paying the price in severe mental anguish and great emotional distress at not getting my favorite seat which, as a writer, artist, and/or journalist, makes me fear for my very livelihood if I depart from my cushy routine, or even lack sufficient genteel deference shown to me by my barista.

This stifling atmosphere will ultimately harm the most vital causes of our time. The restriction of my seating options, whether by official store policy or That Jerk’s stupid face, invariably hurts me and makes everyone like me less capable of drinking coffee on their own whims. The way to defeat my ideas is by discussing them openly and honestly, not by trying to silence or wish them away by preventing me from accessing my cherished workspace. I refuse any false choice between justice and my freedom to sit where I damn well please, which cannot exist without each other.

As a writer, I need a coffee shop that leaves me room for typing, transcribing, and even jotting things down. We need to preserve the possibility of my comfort without dire professional consequences. If the patrons and employees of this coffee shop won’t defend the very thing on which my work—your greatest treasure on Earth—depends, you all shouldn’t expect anyone else to defend it for you.


Someone Who Is About to Complain that the Girl Made His Drink Incorrectly