04 February 2014

simultaneously over- and under-caffeinated for this

I have a topic that I need to revisit, as its importance in my life has increased since graduation. It's about seating arrangements, and it has begun to dominate my brain function. I've talked about it before in the context of classrooms, but, as it turns out, this topic has become even more pressing in the real (whatever that means) world. On a side note, I should probably revisit this topic again in the context of public transportation, because I have quite a bit to say on that subject. But let's save that for another time.

I spend most of my time alone, which contributes greatly to my efforts to keep my sanity intact. For, surely, if I didn't dedicate time to quiet reflection and reading, I would have snapped by now. My favorite place for this sort of activity (besides my bed, naturally) is a small coffee shop a couple blocks away from my office. The coffee is strong, the pastries are delicious, and the music is conducive to my thought process. All in all, it's ideal, especially since its decor is spartan enough that I don't get distracted or too comfortable. I learned early on that reading in an armchair in a dark room means that I will undoubtedly be asleep in twenty minutes.

Another reason why I love this coffee shop is that there is an overabundance of seating. Unfortunately, there are only a few places where I would even consider sitting, which immediately makes me tense up when I enter.

But before I get into that, I should probably explain the layout so you understand what I'm talking about. The wall opposite the counter is completely lined with barstools facing the wall. Next to the counter is a large rectangular table that seats twelve. This table is fairly low to the ground and the chairs do not have backs. At the front of the shop, there are two large windows that each have a small round table in front of it, and each table has a couple of short stools. One of these little round tables is essentially in the corner, and the other is next to the door. There are also a couple of tables outside, but for the purpose of this exercise, they don't matter.

As you can probably guess, my favorite seat in the one in the corner. I like being able to see everything both inside and outside, plus I enjoy being able to lean back against a wall. Call it paranoia or whatever, but I like knowing that there isn't anything behind me. The barstools are my worst nightmare. If my favorite table is occupied, I like sitting at the large rectangular table at the corner closest to my favorite table. My back is still to the wall and my visibility is still pretty good. It also allows other people to sit at the table without sitting next to or, god forbid, directly across from me, thereby shattering the illusion of privacy I like to create. If that seat is taken, I gravitate to whatever seat is furthest from anyone else and try to take up as little space as possible.

Before you ask, no I do not like sitting at the other little table at the front of the shop. Even though it is small and discourages anyone from sitting near me, it's right next to the door, which means that I get a faceful of cold air any time anyone enters or exits the shop.

The question I have to pose today is whether or not it's okay to move seats if someone vacates one of my preferred choices. This morning, I was forced to sit in the middle of the large rectangular table facing the wall because the other patrons had already occupied my preferred positions. But, before my drink was ready, the person sitting in my second-favorite seat left, so I moved. After I had settled in with my drink and my book, the person in my favorite seat also left.

If I were alone in the shop, I would have moved without hesitation. Unfortunately, during the interim, the other seats in the shop had filled up with people who had seen me move once already. I'm fairly comfortable with my neuroses, but it was a bit early in the morning to incur looks of judgment and confusion from strangers who clearly needed caffeine as desperately as I did. So I stayed, settling for second-best and quietly seething when another customer moved from sitting at the large rectangular table to my favorite seat while I was considering moving.

I suppose the moral of this story is that Foucault's theory on governmentality and bodies in space has a real, observable foundation in everyday life, and I need to get over myself and sit wherever I damn well please. Or, you know, stop caring so much about where I sit.

(I was going to draw the layout of the coffee shop to better illustrate my woes, but then I remembered that I cannot draw to save my life and the inaccuracy of my drawing would probably just upset me.)


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