by Daniel Wirtheim
A man with two dogs and a walking cane stops to speak with a passerby whom he greets cordially. Two young smokers light up right in front of me. I can only see the backs of their heads but I’m pretty confident that they’re smiling. After all, it’s 50 degrees on a Sunday afternoon in January and Greensboro’s Tate Street is a lazy little oasis from the work week. There’s a smile working its way across my lips, too, because I’ve got the window seat.
I don’t come to Tate Street Coffee House often, not since the generation of baristas whom I had come to know moved on. There was Spencer who moved to Firestorm Café & Books in Asheville, and Arthur who moved to Urban Grinders on Elm Street. It just doesn’t feel right to learn the names and qualities of a new generation. But the window seat is sort of its own space, separate from therest of the coffee shop.
There’s a single step up that leads to a table with two cushioned chairs. There’s a potted plant and about four feet of guard railing on one side of the entrance space that form a type of threshold and make the window space feel appropriately cut off from the greater room. And the entrance is set back just a few feet from the window, making the window seat feel like a capsule without being claustrophobic. The window seat does have its cons, though.
I feel entitled to watch the outside world from the window seat, but I myself am a sitting spectacle. So there’s an awkward moment of eye contact with nearly every passerby. And if an acquaintance passes, you’re definitely obliged to chat. The window seat can be stressful for those who just want to sit on this Sunday afternoon.
Like anything, it should be enjoyed in moderation. It’s the perfect space for a quick shot of espresso and two newspaper articles — really no more than three. And it’s respectful to limit your time in the window as well. To sit in solitude is selfish, since it is obviously a space for two — the perfect place for a game of Scrabble or checkers. It’s a place for friends and it’s also a place for those who just need a break.