There were only a few places I considered to be a safe haven. My car and the local coffee shops were the main two I relied on.
As I grew up, I made it a mission to go to every coffee shop in the East Bay Area. Oakland, Berkeley, Walnut Creek, Pleasanton, Hayward — if there was a functioning coffee shop, I frequented it. Throughout life, I relied on them not just as a way to feed my caffeine addiction but as a way to escape the confines of home. I was able to focus and get away from the stressors within my family life, if only for a few hours.
For those in toxic households, there is a constant hunt to find safe spaces away from the obstacles one faces. The coffee shop in the city next to mine served as a sweet escape. I spent hours doing work and people watching. I made friends with the baristas and had late night study sessions. I consumed numerous amounts of various drinks to get me as buzzed as possible.
However, with the whirlwind of the pandemic, came the shutdowns and the hardships. Indoor dining became obsolete and people grew frightened. As I dealt with a breakup, feeling lost post-grad, a job layoff, and living in a household with a toxic parent, my appreciation for coffee shops grew immensely. It wasn't until 2020 that I took for granted what I thought would be my safe space forever.
The coffee shop wasn’t just a place to shelter in other than my 10x12 room, it sparked joy and fueled creativity. The ability to work hard and not face the temptation of falling asleep in one’s bed was something we rarely dealt with. Losing touch with reality was what I and many others craved. Not to mention, the atmosphere. Constantly viewing productivity before our eyes, motivation to work, the sound of rainfall from outside as you hum while answering emails, and a place to relax in the mornings before class or work. It was idyllic and it was comforting.
As I find myself continuously plunging into stacks of papers and work, I can’t help but wonder if it would all be easier with an overpriced latte in my hand as I watch life go by.
The various stories that coffee shops hold are special. First dates between two shy and anxious lovers, an interview for an exciting new role, playing card games with friends, grinding away before a final exam, trying to write your first screenplay, grabbing a quick bite as you rush to the train station, or simply watching the window and daydreaming as the leaves fall. The coffee shop served its purpose as an escape for most and the inability to experience them inside is tough to grasp.
Once winter rolls around and the capacity to sit outside comfortably without shivering isn’t feasible, where will we go to? During winters, I entered my local coffee shop and it welcomed me with a warm embrace. It saddens me to know that I won’t be able to step inside without a looming sense of worry for a while. With restrictions slowly easing, yet, coronavirus cases climbing, it’s a confusing time to make decisions.
In a post-pandemic world, I hope we get our coffee shops back. Not just for the mere act of sitting inside and worrying about catching a deadly disease but, for the escape it provides.