digital, agencies, life, and other stuff

The vexing question of ‘Communal Cafe Newspaper’ etiquette.

Posted by Lee on May 4, 2009


It’s a funny thing – in an era where everyone says the newspaper is dead, there’s one place where every  day working of the week, the daily newspaper has firmly cemented its place in society – and that’s the local cafe / coffeeshop.
Around the world, many of our favorite coffee shops provide copies of the morning newspapers for the patrons to read while sitting back and indulging in their morning caffeine fix.

But like many things in life now, there seems to be a need to formalise a set of etiquette guidelines or people so they don’t transgress any of the so far unwritten rules of reading the ‘Communal Cafe Newspaper’.

So here is my attempt to address the vexing question of ‘Communal Cafe Newspaper’ etiquette:

1. Do not attempt to claim the newspaper until you have queued and paid for your coffee order. Remember, until you have paid for your order, you are not a customer, therefore have no right to enjoy the fringe benefit of the communal newspaper.

2. While it is acceptable to pick up the whole newspaper and take it to your table (as long as you haven’t knocked over any little old lady on the way to get it), never, never then just hold onto it if you are chatting with friends, family or colleagues – others will be watching you with disdain and thinly veiled hatred.

3. To score points on the etiquette front, once you have read a section of the paper, fold it tidily and leave it on your table as far away from you as possible -a clear signal to others that you’re done with it.
Alternatively, score even more points by putting the section(s) you have finished on an empty table next to you, so that the other morning java participants can take it to their own table without embarrassment .

4. Whatever you do, once finished, return the paper to the ‘patrons’ paper pick-up point’ ensuring it is well folded and all the sections are back in the correct order, ready for the next person to read.

Warning: some people do not understand, or choose to ignore the unwritten rules of ‘Communal Cafe Newspaper Etiquette’. This may cause problems and result in any of the following:
1. You arrive in the cafe and the ‘Communal Cafe Newspaper’ is already being read by another patron.
Trying not to stare too obviously, you notice that the other person has just finished a section but has tucked it underneath the rest of the newspaper still being read. Do you approach this person and ask if you can read the section he / her has just finished?
Well, unless you don’t mind a public scene, no. This person is a control freak, his or her table is their castle – and so is everything on it until they’re ready to leave.
Note: This person will also probably leave the paper in total disarray, normally with coffee stains and food remnants smeared on it. Handle with kid gloves!

2. You notice a group of people chatting at a table, engrossed in their conversation. Sat there on the table in the middle of this group is the ‘Communal Cafe Newspaper’ and nobody is reading it. How should you approach  this situation?
Approach with care, be polite and ask if you can take the paper as they’re obviously not reading it – be very wary as the group may be friendly, but usually the power of the group results in barbed sarcastic comments being thrown your way to impress and amuse others in the group.

3. Similar to situation 2 above, you boldly walk up, nod to the people at the table and take the newspaper to your table and start reading it. You’ve taken control of the situation, but is this a wise action?
Wow – this is brave and your audacity may let you pull it off, however, what if the newspaper is not the ‘Communal Cafe Newspaper’, but had actually been brought into the cafe by one of the group? To frightening to imagine…….

Failing all of the above, you could just buy your own copy of the daily newspaper on your way to the cafe to read over your morning cup of  java, but if so, and before you go into the cafe, clearly mark each section with your name in black indelible marker so you are totally exempt from the embarrassment and annoyance of being dragged into another round of ‘Communal Cafe Newspaper Etiquette’.
And by the way, if you finish with your own copy of the newspaper before you leave, you could always leave it behind to help carry the burden of the poor lonely ‘Communal Cafe Newspaper’!


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