Asked to Leave

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I want to say I was kicked out, but that would make the event a little more dramatic than it actually was.

I was in Truth or Consequences, at Passion Pie Cafe, as I’d been so many times before. I was there primarily to drop off my submission for the Valentine’s Day Sacred Heart art contest, but I figured I’d also get some breakfast and use their free WiFi for a few hours while I got some writing done.

During past visits to T or C, I’ve spent hours at a time at Passion Pie. I’ve sat there from nearly open (7am) to nearly close (3pm). The workers have always been…if not friendly…gracious to me. Actually, the more often I came in, the friendlier the workers became, maybe because I started to seem like a regular, or maybe because I usually put a dollar in the tip jar. In any case, I’d been there before, hunkered down and using the WiFi for hours.

The coffee shop seemed different on this visit to town. Some of the furniture was different, bigger, maybe more comfortable, but with the effect of reducing the seating in a small room that already couldn’t accommodate everyone at the busiest times of the day. I’m not sure why the owners of a coffee shop would want to reduce seating, but that’s what seems to have happened.

The workers were different too. On the couple of times I’d already gone in since I’d returned to T or C, I hadn’t seen the woman who’d worked there five days a week during my past visits. She was the woman who was not exactly friendly (at least by my Southern standards), but was always gracious and kind to me. She always offered me a refill on my iced tea and never acted as if I were sitting at a table longer than my allotted time. Where had she gone? I don’t know, but the woman working the counter on the day in question was not her.

I dropped off my collage and filled out a form with my contact info. Then I ordered a breakfast croissant (no meat, and yes, please, do add tomatoes) and grabbed a scone from the day-old basket. My total came to almost $9. I pulled out my debit card, signed the screen with my fingertip. This, I think, is where I made my fatal mistake. I forgot to leave a tip.

I usually leave a tip. I’m superstitious about leaving tips, a holdover from my days as a guest house concierge when I was paid cash commissions on tours I sold. I have to keep that cash flowing, I came to believe. If I don’t share the cash I get, I won’t get any more cash, I came to believe. Maybe because I’d been out of the cash economy for a couple of years, I’d forgotten my own superstition. Maybe because I paid with a debit card, I’d simply spaced on the tip. Maybe it was the signing my name with my forefinger that threw me off. The bottom line, I realized later, is that I failed to leave a tip.

In my own defense, the service offered at Passion Pie is minimal. I ordered my food from the woman working the counter. She rang up my total and collected my payment. Then she took one step to the window into the kitchen and called out my order to the cook. When my food was done, the cook placed it on the counter and called out my name, at which time I walked over and picked it up. The woman at the counter didn’t offer me any extra or special service. She didn’t even carry a single item out to my table. Still, I probably should have left a dollar in the jar.

I picked a very small table with two chairs. My laptop barely fit on the table, but I didn’t want to take up room I wasn’t entitled to. Also, the battery on my laptop no longer holds a charge, so I must always be tethered to an electrical outlet. The table was near an outlet. I pulled out what I needed for my writing, plugged in my laptop, signed on to the internet. I balanced my breakfast on the edge of the table as I scarfed it down. Then I got to work.

The cafe was fairly busy as people came in for coffee and breakfast. Other tables filled up, and I decided if I saw another single person unable to find a place to sit, I would offer him or her my unoccupied chair. I glanced around and noticed the few outside tables were empty (to be fair, it was a chilly morning), and no one in the cafe was obviously without a seat. A couple of people were in line at the counter, but I had no idea if they wanted to linger in the shop or get their food and beverages to go.

That’s when the woman who’d taken my order left the counter and walked toward my table. I thought she was going to clean up the condiment area immediately to my left, but I realized she was there for me when she said, Excuse me…

I didn’t expect what came next. We have people waiting for tables…

She didn’t say, You have to leave! but her message was clear. She wanted me gone. She thought I had stayed too long.

I noticed there were no signs proclaiming a time limit on tables or a minimum purchase amount for people who wanted to linger. If there is any sort of official time limit or spending minimum, the information is kept super secret until the worker tells the offender that it’s time to go. At least if there were a sign, I could have made an informed decision about what I wanted to do. I’m confident I would not have bought an overpriced restaurant breakfast and chosen to sit at a tiny table if I had known I would be walking out of the place less than two hours later.

I didn’t know what to do other than to gather up my things and go. I suppose I could have argued with the worker, but that’s not my style. Maybe I should have offered her a bribe. In any case, I left. And I haven’t been back. And I don’t think I will go back.

But I did get a bit of a consolation prize. My collage won third place in the Passion Pie contest, and the owner of the place wrote me a check for $50.

This is my award-winning collage, Valentine for My Own Dear Heart. It won 3rd prize in the Passion Pie Sacred Heart contest.

About Blaize Sun

I live in my van, which makes me a rubber tramp. I like to see places I've never seen before, and I like to visit the places I love again and again. I like to play with color. I make collages and hemp jewelry and cheerful winter hats. I take photographs and (sometimes, not in a long time) write poetry. All of those things make me an artist. Although I like to spread joy and to make people laugh, my wit can be sharp. I try to stay positives in all situations, to find the goodness in all people. But I often feel compelled to point out bullshit when I smell it. I like to have fun, to dance, to eat yummy food, to sit by a fire and share stories. I want to know what people hold dear and important, not just make surface small talk. This blog is a way for me to share stories. This blog is made up of my stories, rants, and observations, as well as my photographs.

10 Responses »

    • Most coffee shops I’ve been in (and I’ve been in coffee shops across the United States) have no limit on the time a patron can sit there. I had no way of knowing there was a limit on the time I was allowed to sit in this particular coffee shop. If there had been a sign, I would have known about the time limit, and I wouldn’t have stayed past the time I was welcome. Actually, if there had been a sign saying I was only welcome for a limited amount of time, I would not have sat down or spent my money there.

  1. Gotta disagree with you on this one. The small business owner is in the business of making money and you can’t make money when there isn’t a turnover in customers. Lunch is usually consider prime time to make money. This business owner has rent, utilities and employees to pay. That can’t be done if someone stays too long.

    • I hear what you’re saying, Mary. If I had known if was no longer allowed to linger there (as I had been allowed to linger in the past), I would not have taken up table space or spent my money there. Now I know, and I won’t waste my money there next time I am in town.

  2. Exactly! Common sense would tell you that you are taking advantage. I can’t believe you would stay in a public place for 8 hours sucking up electricity and Internet and ONLY put a measly dollar tip In the jar. 10 bucks would have been more appropriate.

    • Well, if I had put ten bucks in the tip jar, it wouldn’t have gone to pay for the electricity and internet anyway. It would have gone straight to the workers. I’m not really opposed to that, just saying, anything in the tip jar wouldn’t have “paid” for my sitting there.

      I guess I have been spoiled by Panera. Panera stores are always large, with plenty of seating and plenty of electrical outlets. I’ve never noticed employees at any Panera I’ve been in hassling anyone about having sat around too long. Too bad there’s not a Panera in Truth or Consequences.

      I understand that having been asked to leave the local coffee shop just means that place is not a good fit for me. I won’t be back. The owners won’t care that I won’t be back. It works out for everyone.

  3. I have blithely sat there chatting with a friend for longer than may have been technically appropriate. And, I have felt the energy there change over the past few months, overall. This reaction may have been a product of that changing energy.

    Do you ever go to 4th Street Computer Lab? Very comfortable, no need to tip, and people expect you to stay awhile.

    • I do go to the 4th Street Computer Lab and I like it very much. I’ve been there both to utilize the free WiFi on my own laptop, as well as to use the lab computers to print from the internet. For a while, the lab was not open on Mondays, but I think it is now open five days a week again. However, that means no WiFi access on weekends. Also, on at least two days a week, the computer lab is only open from noon to 5pm. So while the 4th Street Computer Lab is GREAT, and I appreciate it, it is not always convenient.

      Sometimes it is difficult to be a writer on the road who is unable to afford to pay for private internet access.

  4. Coffee shops are places to hang out. I’ve sat at Starbucks and local coffee shops 8 hours before all over the South and Southeast and never been asked to leave. A lot of people who work from home will work at coffee shops. I would never stay at a regular restaurant for hours but I think it’s fine to stay at coffee shops for hours. Since I’ve also never had a problem, I think Passion Pie Cafe is an anomaly.

    • I agree with you, Cerene. I have too have sat in national chain and locally owned coffee shops for hours with no problem, not even a hint that maybe I had been there too long. And yes, I have seen others working long hours in coffee shops too: people I thought were students; people who were probably working from “home” (there’s a more accurate term for working away from the office, but I can’t think of it right now); people who were probably writing books.

      Passion Pie is really small, which is probably a huge part of why the owners don’t want people working there. In any case, I won’t bother them again.

      Thanks for your comments, and thanks for reading!

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