|Subject of story not pictured!|
There are two coffee shops right below my apartment.
Cinnamon Girl and The Civil Service are side by side, and sell the exact same coffee. One doubles as a sort of organic general store, with vegan pastries, craft beer, produce, and dry goods. The other has lots of seating, serves sandwiches and salads, and is designed for people to sit and work and socialize for hours. But when I stop for a to-go cup of coffee on my way to work, I always choose Cinnamon Girl. Here's why.
When I first moved to the neighborhood, a halfway gentrified corner of BedStuy that is to Bushwick what Bushwick is to Williamsburg, I was thrilled to discover not one but two! cool coffee shops between me and the subway. Always lingering in front of The Civil Service was the proprietor, a tall guy in black jeans and Nike slip-on sandals. After just a few days of daily patronage, he introduced himself and invited me in for a cup of coffee on the house. Score one for The Civil Service. How cool! I thought. I'd always wanted to have a neighborhood coffee shop, where I befriended the people who worked there, got occasional free drinks and hung out for hours with the other neighborhood characters. What a charming sense of community!
I began to see this guy every day and he always came so close to remembering my name and my order (large coffee with milk and a croissant). Usually standing outside or in the doorway, it was not uncommon for him to say as I passed, "Are you coming into the Civil Service?", or for him to stop me as I walked and draw me into conversation, which usually ended with, "Coming in for your coffee?" Every day, he stood in the coffee shop like a sentinel, watching (at least he seemed to) which of the two shops (again, with the exact same coffee) I would patronize today.
So I began to avoid The Civil Service, shuffling past the store front like a coffee criminal, struggling to hide the incriminating Cinnamon Girl to-go cup. In the bag? Under my coat? What if I just turn to the right and kind of crab walk past with the cup behind me? If I did happen to spot him I used my well-practiced blank stare. Just don't make eye contact. Don't make eye contact! Look at your shoes! Look at the sky!
My roommates agreed "Oh I never go to Civil Service." And when I brought it up with the woman behind the counter at Cinnamon Girl she said she'd actually seen the owner of Civil Service follow people into Cinnamon Girl, and drag them over to his shop. (That's not legal, right?)
At this point, I've basically become so turned off by this guy, who is literally always there, that I just don't go in there anymore. How beautifully ironic that one man's aggressive pursuit of regular business has effectively driven it away.
So much for that charming sense of community, I guess. That's ok, though. Let's just call it charming eccentricity instead. Only in NYC folks!