College students are always on the hunt for a productive study spot. Whether it’s a great nook in the Chester Fritz Library or a window seat at Bully Brew, everyone has a go-to place to get work done, but with many precautions due to COVID-19, some of the rules have changed – especially in food-serving establishments. Between masks and social distancing, it changes from place to place. There seem to be many rules to follow, both spoken and unspoken. From my experience, one silent rule is to not linger too long in a cafe. This poses the question: how long is too long? An hour? Maybe two? There isn’t a formula to tell you what is or isn’t acceptable, but I’ve found that there are a few factors that can extend your welcome and a few no-no’s that will have baristas secretly hoping you’ll pack up and leave.
When you enter a cafe, the most obvious thing you should do is order something. Yes, I understand that being a broke college kid doesn’t mean that you have the cash to spare, but if at all possible, please order something. (Asking for a glass of water and nothing else is rude! Don’t do that.) It can be a cup of coffee or a muffin to snack on to fuel your studying. The barista won’t judge you for ordering the smallest size, although they are more than likely obligated to try to upsell you. Don’t take it personally, that’s just part of their job. If you’re feeling friendly, make some small talk with the person who takes your order. Baristas do recognize regulars, so if you plan to make a certain spot your go-to, it’s worth it to get to know your barista. (I hope my old boss doesn’t read this, but when I worked as a barista, I definitely “forgot” to charge regulars for extra shots of espresso or flavor add-ins…. Do what you will with that information.) Once you’ve established that you are a paying customer, you are ready to find your seat.
Picking out a seat at a cafe can be tricky. Sure, you could just sit at an open spot, but with COVID precautions, you don’t want to accidentally sit in a closed-off spot or somewhere that hasn’t been sanitized between customers. In addition to this, you don’t want to sit under a vent when you’ve forgotten a sweatshirt, have your laptop die because you didn’t grab a table by an outlet, or sit near a chatterbox who interrupts your study mojo. Another thing to keep in mind that pertains to how long it is acceptable to linger is how much space you take up. Just because there is a four-person table open doesn’t mean that you should hog it. Sometimes you don’t have many options for where to sit, but if you stay long enough and switch spots to accommodate busy times of business operation, the employees will thank you. Bottom line: be courteous of others.
Now that you know the “dos” of lingering in a cafe, here are the three “don’ts.” Don’t bring in outside food or drink. A water bottle or granola bar is fine, but anything more than that is not polite. Besides, with health codes updating due to the pandemic, it isn’t sanitary to bring your own mug or tumbler for the barista to handle. Another thing to avoid is talking loudly on Zoom calls. Use your headphones, and recognize that other people are trying to utilize the cafe too. Lastly, don’t leave a mess behind. Clean up after yourself. If you drop your straw wrapper on the ground, pick it up, and be sure to throw your trash away.
Although cafes get a bad rep for being snobby, the truth is that they are designed to foster community. They aren’t meant to sit empty, and it’s good to support the local economy by being a patron. To sum it all up, if you make friends with your barista and are considerate of others, you can stay up to three hours at a coffee shop. So go ahead – linger.
Claire Weltz is a Dakota Student Opinion Writer. She can be reached at [email protected]