My Identity with a Coffee House


I’m eighteen years old and I don’t know who I am. If you really think about it, how many people really know how to define themselves? There is so much that goes into defining oneself so that we don’t sound too ordinary. Who am I? What is my identity? What is my place?

One thing that helps me define me as a person is the town I live in. I live in Bellingham, Washington and attend Western Washington University. Bellingham is filled with college aged students and WWU alumni. I feel as though Bellingham caters to a specific type of person. The style of Bellingham can be described as hipster grunge. It is the homeland of flannels and Birkenstocks. Most residents of the area are very accepting and very liberal. Which makes sense because WWU is a liberal arts school. I like to think that because we are so close to Canada that their kindness rubs off on us.

When I think of place, I think of my place in the world. I don’t even mean just in other people’s eyes. I think of what defines me. Is it sports? Career? Personality? I believe it is all and more. I also believe that your place could be a location. It could be a basketball court, local library, or even restaurant. In my area of Washington, I believe that for some people, their place is the local coffee house. On campus, there is a place called The Underground Coffee House. This is a place where people gather to catch up with friends or to be alone for the best study session. Some people could identify with it. This might just be because it is their favorite place but if it becomes a big part of one’s life, then I believe that it can be a part of your identity.

To me, The Underground Coffee House is the stereotypical movie coffee house. There were countless mac computers, the occasional business person in a suit, and the coffee was served in mismatched mugs. It was dimmed and it feels secretive. I felt like I was possibly walking into a secret meeting when I have to descend about five flights of stairs and turn multiple corners to finally arrive to my destination. When you first walk in, you get hit with quite chatter and the tapping of keys on keyboards. You also get the soft tunes of The Beatles and other recognizable artists. Then you have the choice of either a soft and relaxing couch, a regular lunch room round table, or a barstool. I chose the barstool because I thought it would be the best place to observe the people and really evaluate my surroundings. Also, the tables and couches seemed as though they were reserved for bigger groups of people and me being with only too other people, I didn’t feel comfortable sitting there. The feeling of the coffee house as productive especially at the tables. It seemed like everyone was there for a specific task or reason beside just getting a coffee or a nice treat. I got the feeling that there were people with a few essays due or an exam the next day. It was as if no one had any time to waste and they were working really hard to achieve something. It was the first coffee house that I had been to that felt like they were serving real people instead of emotionless zombies. It was more of a social setting than just a place to get your daily fix of espresso shots. But what I mean by this is that it felt full of human error and the comfort of home. It didn’t feel like a grab-and-go place like most Starbucks or even Woods. If The Underground Coffee House was a person, it would be a liberal mid-twenties person from the nineties. Or as if they were still from the nineties but they couldn’t leave the grunge life for a more modern one which I believe is very desirable to the average Western Washington University student.

In this photo, you can see the couches that were mentioned that remind me of That 70’s Show.

“The Underground Coffee House: A New Kind of Coffee Store By Evan Jensen.” Medium. Picture, 10 Oct. 2015. Web. 22 Jan. 2016.

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One reason it gave me comfort is because the coffee house gave a feeling of comfort because it reminded me of That’s 70’s Show. So I suppose you could say that I slightly identify with the coffee house even though it is far from my favorite place. But since That’s 70’s Show reminds me of my childhood and when my mom, my brother, and I would sit and watch every week which brings me nostalgia. It reminded me of this because of the circle of couches and the outdated carpet. It gave me the feeling like I needed ten of my best friends to take all the spots and have deep conversations about life over an espresso. The whole coffee house felt slightly worn and as if the laughter and smiles are engraved into the couches just as the couches in the basement of Red and Kitty’s home.

In this photo, you can see the outdated carpet and students pressing on with their work for the day. You can also see the tables and the barstools previously mentioned

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The customers of the coffee house were exactly what I would expect. The people are slightly different from a regular coffee shop due to the fact that it is located on a college campus. It also doesn’t give the vibe that a family would enjoy it because it definitely is a placed aimed toward young adults. Most people there were in their late teens or early twenties. It didn’t seem like a place that many professors would go to either because it is quite of the way for a grab and go drink. The majority of the people I saw were regular Western Washington University students. What I say “regular” I mostly mean people dressed more grudge like than your average Washington resident because that is the norm for Bellingham. Also, as I said before, the occasional business person would stop by but not for long. I also noticed that the baristas didn’t seem as happy or as friendly as you would expect. Maybe it was due to the weather but it was a bit off putting to not get smiles while ordering. I also blame the lack of warm smiles on how busy the coffee hose was. When I went, it was the afternoon and it was dreary outside. I can only imagine that the weather could have also affected their moods.

So what are some reasons others identifying with The Underground Coffee House? I can’t speak for others but I believe it is the atmosphere and the conditions that people like to study in. Just as some people with identify with Starbucks because of the daily use, the same can be done for this coffee house. Some spend many hours taking in the coffee house even if they are studying or just enjoying a drink. To some, The Underground Coffee House is their place. Could this be my place too?

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