Ten Best: Coffee shop archetypes

by Matt Goldman

The Creepy Old Guy

Boredom has set in after retirement, and they want nothing more than to avoid their menopausal wives and share stories from their heady, bohemian glory days with the rest of us over a cup of shade-grown, fair-trade java. They arrive when the doors open and wait for just a hint of eye contact, preferably from an attractive female between the ages of 18 and 25. But alas, the ogling is one-sided and they’re left to mingle with the other 50-something guys creeping out the joint.

The Stay at Home Mom

These ladies, clad in their uniform tennis jumpsuits and multi-carat engagement rings, tend to frequent Starbucks and are often accompanied by their hyperactive preschoolers who could shatter glass with their formidable shrieks. Usually they are the ones who order anything but coffee from the menu – something along the lines of a venti tazo half chai, half green tea latte with Splenda and soy milk. When ordering they’re also simultaneously yelling at their kid who’s throwing a temper tantrum and gossiping on their Bluetooth about who looked like they needed some lipo at yoga.

The Slacker Barista

Poor guy. He graduated from college in ’97 with a double major in philosophy and bong rips and his level of ambition at this point is on par with that of a three-toed sloth. He swears he’s almost done with his graduate school application but wants to tweak his personal statement just a little more before he sends it in. He loves the arrival of the fall semester as it brings with it a whole new flock of freshmen girls to impress with the stellar vocabulary he’s garnered from reading everything ever written by his guru, Hunter S. Thompson, and doing crossword puzzles during his downtime behind the counter.

The Studier

Amid the steady drone of coffeeshop conversation, they’re somehow able to study for exams, write papers and essentially accomplish more in one three-hour sitting than the slacker barista guy has in the last year. They’ll camp out for hours without leaving, and don’t bogart their table because they’re extremely territorial. They probably log the most hours at the coffee shop out of everyone on this list and that gives them the right to remove anyone who’s occupying their turf. Just try to stay away from these folks.

The Singer/Songwriter/Acoustic Guitarist

For every one coffee shop there are at least 10 of these guys. They never miss an open mic night – it’s their chance to finally introduce the world to their profound and beautiful songs about lost love, love lost, and the one that got away. Unfortunately, Bob Dylan doesn’t come around very often and this means it’s rare when any of them actually have talent. But delusions of grandeur are what make them so much fun to have around. They’re unapologetically bad, giving them an excellent entertainment value.

The Goth Chick

Unfortunately, since the end of the ’90s they’ve become somewhat endangered, but this doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t be on the list. During their prime you could find these melancholy ladies glooming up just about every coffee shop in the contiguous United States. They’re far more intimidating than anyone else in the shop not so much because of their personality, but more because of the gobs of black eye makeup they have on. Sometimes they travel in packs but usually they just want to be left alone. If they’re not festering in the corner with their coffee (served black of course), they’re reading something from the proto-feminist era, usually by one of the Brontë sisters.

The Internet Junkie

In the age of free WiFi, these guys have become regular frequenters of the coffee shop. They’re too cheap to get the internet at home, so this technological innovation represents a dream come true. When they’re not at websites entirely inappropriate for public viewing, they’re catching up on e-mails and doing their online billing, and rarely paying for more than one cup of coffee.

The Hipsters

They’re kind of like the new goth. They’re usually wearing thick-rimmed glass, scarves, very tight T-shirts and even tighter black jeans, often rocking asymmetrical haircuts. However unlike the goth folks, they always travel in packs and are usually talking about obscure music that no one else in their right mind would ever listen too. Secretly they don’t really like it either, but anything remotely mainstream is a major, major faux pas for these folks.

The Caffeine Junkie

You should avoid these guys at all costs. By noon they’re usually on their fifth or sixth cup of coffee and it shows. Get them started and they’ll ramble on about anything and everything. They’re also easy to spot as they are rarely sitting down. They’re either chain smoking outside, moving from table to table desperately looking for someone to talk to or in the bathroom.

Brian Clarey

Back in his freelancing days, he could be found pounding cup after cup and ranting away on his laptop at his self-proclaimed “office” the Green Bean. Since then, he’s acquired his own workspace to conduct the bulk of his tirades, but at one point Clarey embodied at least five or six of these categories.