Saturday, May 5, 2007

Coffee House Lingo

A "camper" is someone who takes up space for an inordinate amount of time without purchasing something (a cup of coffee, for example) at regular intervals. Generally, the equivalent of a drink an hour is considered a minimal purchase in order to "camp out." It is also considered particularly heinous (rude) to camp and use free Internet access without purchasing.

Hogging choice spots in a cafe' for long periods of time is also uncool. The cafe' is traditionally a community spot, what Ray Oldenburg calls the third place*, and people who don't share are not embracing the community function and philosophy of the place.

* Ray Oldenburg is an urban sociologist from Florida who writes about the importance of informal public gathering places for a functioning civil society, democracy, and civic engagement. He coined the term third place and is the author of the books Celebrating The Third Place and The Great Good Place, which was a New York Times Book Review Editor's Choice for 1989.

Oldenburg suggests that beer gardens, main streets, pubs, cafes, coffeehouses, post offices, and other third places are the heart of a community's social vitality and the foundation of a functioning democracy. They promote social equality by leveling the status of guests, provide a setting for grassroots politics, create habits of public association, and offer psychological support to individuals and communities.

Oldenburg identifies that in modern suburban societies time is primarily spent in isolated first (home) and second (work) places. In contrast, third places offer a neutral public space for a community to connect and establish bonds. Third places "host the regular, voluntary, informal, and happily anticipated gatherings of individuals beyond the realms of home and work."

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