In 2008, I began a love affair with one of the best coffee shops I have yet to experience, Hyperion. This is saying a lot, because I’m a long suffering caffeine addict. And in my senior year, living six blocks away from the downtown cornerstone made me fully reject any corporate coffee shop someone might drag me to. Starbucks was somewhere I went if I had a gift certificate, not anywhere I would go to get a caffeine fix.
But now, the closest coffee shop to my house is the Starbucks on Pennsylvania Avenue, three blocks from the Capitol. I know there are coffee shops in Washington which more closely resemble Hyperion, because I’ve been to them. They just aren’t as convenient, and let’s be real, convenience is an issue. But this made me wonder…what really is the difference between a cup of corporate coffee and an independent shop?
Nothing, really. “Atmosphere” could be an argument, I guess. But they have the same caffeine. Same drinks, generally. With more hipster, “interesting” merchandise at the independent shop and more Joe Fox-esque merch at the corporate. In a sense, everything is the same, and nothing is the same.
I cried silently to myself when I couldn’t find a hometown coffee shop nearby, but this Starbucks is almost just as interesting. I have a perch that looks out the window and allows me to watch all the politicians and lobbyists walk to lunch from the Capitol, see all the really weird haircuts that some people have, and laugh when people run around frantically to either make the pedestrian crossing or tart screaming at their computer because the Internet goes down. What I’ve learned here is that everyone here talks to their computers, usually in expletives. I mean, obviously everyone does this, but in public? In a suit? It’s a break in the usual professionalism I see and at first, a little scary. But, that’s what headphones are for, so I can pretend to listen to music yet secretly listen to their “private” breakdown.
People watching is undoubtedly the most interesting aspect of my seat–these people really do have weird hairstyles (seriously…I swear this guy took a picture of Bart Simpson to his hairdresser), but can also be really good fashion inspiration in a world outfitted by Ann Taylor and Brooks Brothers. People listening though, not as interesting. There was a 23-year-old in here earlier who I’m sure was on the phone with her therapist, trying to decide if she should break off her engagement or not. Now, I think an informational interview is happening. The man next to me is reading his emails aloud from his iPhone.
But who knows, maybe if I listen enough, I’ll learn some national secrets. After all, it’s all really about the location, right?