What is Coffee House Etiquette? Talking or No Talking?

A couple of weeks ago I was at a coffee house and a friend of mine was shushed for talking. I’ve since asked a few people and they’ve recalled similar instances and/or they felt uncomfortable talking because so many people were working/studying. Now I’m not talking about screaming – just talking with a normal inside voice.

This has been bothering me for a while so I’m curious what you guys think – because so many people now work or study in coffee houses (especially during the day) is the common etiquette now comparable to a library? Has anyone else noticed that coffee house etiquette has changed so that it now resembles that of a library? Are there specific coffee shops that cater more for those seeking quiet?

193 Comment

  • i think the appropriate response to being shushed when talking at a normal volume in a place that isn’t a library, performance or hospital is an equitable “fuck you”.

    • +1,000,000,000

      • I have been saying for a while now that I would like to open a coffee joint that tries to promote being social. The first thing I would do is NOT have wifi. I am a big fan of the italian cafes which are all about sitting (or standing) and talking. I hate the snobby library-esk coffee shop thing…

        • get goin’ on that!

        • Right on! Kind of like The Saloon on U Street, but without all the retarded rules and maniacal owner!

          • I’ve been to The Saloon quite a few times and have never had an issue with any of the rules. Often I’ve wondered if they’re actually enforced, or if it’s just part of the ambiance that appeals to a specific crowd.

            Why is the owner maniacal?

          • You’re pretty much right about the rules, it’s more or less a running joke these days.

            Until a pack of drunken frat boys try to invade the place.

          • And on that fateful day, we shall be glad of the rules, and will cheer as the drunken rabble are ushered back into the cab from whence they came.

          • I’ve also been there a half dozen times and never even knew there were rules there until it was pointed out here.

            I guess that means I’m not an overly loud and obnoxious douche if I’ve never been told to shut up or tossed out.

            “You used to be a total dick. Now, you’re just a bit of a dick. Welcome to dick club.”

          • me

            The only issue I have with that place is that I’m a regular. I go there about once a week with my husband and order the same thing every time. Yet they insist that I don’t order my drink at the same time as my food. So, the waitstaff have to take my drink order, bring it back, go away for a few minutes, come back, and take my food order. I just want my damn cheese fries!

          • Those damn rules! seriously, lighten up. I was meeting a friend I hadn’t seen in years and got up to hug her (a no-no) and then was repeatedly threatened to be kicked out if we were laughing too loudly. We also had the sweet window seat and then they asked up to move for a bigger party that showed up after us. Not cool.

    • Or Amtrak quiet car

    • right on

  • Both.

    I just hope Ms. Pixie joins the antiques hunt club!

  • To an actual person at a reasonable volume = a-ok
    On a cell phone or at an obnoxious volume = go outside (or home, preferably)

    • If someone’s on a cell phone speaking at a normal volume (I know, it’s rare) how is that different than if they’re talking to an actual other person?

      I ask because I too find it annoying, but it doesn’t make any sense. I shouldn’t be more bothered by someone on the phone than I am by 2 people having a conversation but I am.

      • I just heard (read?) something about this… a one-sided conversation actually hits your brain differently than when you hear both sides. You are constantly trying to anticipate the other person’s response and it’s incredibly distracting/irritating. If I remember correctly, there actually is a biological or neurological basis for your annoyance.

        • Maybe if people minded their own business they wouldnt be so bothered by someone talking at a normal, decent, polite level into a cell phone.

          • It’s not a matter of etiquette — it’s something your brain does automatically.

          • My brain automatically thinks that this isnt a reason to care if people have a one sided conversation at a civil volume.

          • Find me 5 people who talk at a normal decent polite level into a cell phone. Everyone talks into a cell phone at:

            (Ambient Noise Level) + (Cell phone Max Volume level) + (1 / Personal Deafness Level) + 10dB.

      • Cell phone conversations are irritating for two specific reasons, both of which have actually been studied.

        First, only hearing one side of a conversation has been shown to be more disruptive to people and their thought processes than a loud conversation on two people’s part. I’ve noticed that if I’m sitting next to two people, one of whom is very loud, and the other is so quiet they can’t be heard, it’s almost as obnoxious as listening to a cell phone talker.

        Second, cell phones don’t have “forced feedback” like regular landline phones. I’ve never understood why, but you typically can’t hear yourself in the era piece, and this causes many people to speak more loudly. Also, if people have trouble hearing the other person on the line, they seem to think this means they should speak more loudly on their side, which makes no real sense.

      • Here’s the thing with the use of cell phones in public places: the world is not your living room! I don’t try to anticipate what the other person is trying to say, I just marvel at the oblivious attitude of the speaker who so freely subjects the rest of us to the inane details of their life.

        Secondly, the behavior seems much different than face-to-face conversation. For some reason, people tend to speak in subdued tones when revealing personal information to another person their speaking to face-to-face when in public. But it seems that people will practically speak in their outside voice to communicate what went down with ‘what’s his/her name last night’ when their on a phone in public. Please, for the love of god, STFU! You are dull and obnoxious and so is your life!

  • Shushing is obnoxious. But at the same time, person A’s normal inside voice is person B’s conviction that A is so arrogant that he/she thinks the rest of the world wants to hear his/her thoughts. Some people just have loud inside voices. Also, I don’t think it depends on the specific coffee shop as much as it does the relative noise level in any coffee shop at any given time – much like any public place. But there’s a more polite way to handle that than shushing.

  • It is definitely a good practice to keep communication to a lower volume

  • I’m going to have to go with “oh HELL naw!” here. I almost wish that I drank coffee, so that I could go to coffee shops, so that someone might shush me, so that I could go all sarcasti-bitch on ’em.

    You may expect silence in libraries, churches at certain times of day, and your own home. Period. Can’t take the chat, stay out of the coffee shop.

  • It’s a coffee house. People drink coffee and talk.

    It’s not a library,

    (nor is it a men’s locker room either, so keep it civil).

    It’s a coffee house. People drink coffee and talk.

    • Not sure what you think men talk about in locker rooms, but it’s probably about as accurate as the pillow fights and makeout sessions at girls’ sleepover parties.

      • The naked pillow fights at college girls’ sleepovers that I’ve heard about sound hot. I cant imagine that this isnt true.

        • Silly. Sorority girls don’t have naked pillow fights. We wear little lacy silky pajamas.

          • What I had heard is that is what you start out wearing until the fighting gets particularly raucous… I’m pretty sure I’m right about this. There are naked pillow fights.

          • me

            It’s once we’re in our frilly PJs that we make out.

        • I think it’s a conspiracy to keep us in the dark about the whole thing.

          Dude, btw, you should have seen the pics that Jason was showing us on his phone at Gold’s last night. That chick he’s banging is FREAKY.

  • Discussions among other patrons diverts attention from pretentious hipsters writing their tedious poetry (sorry: “spoken word”) on ostentatiously displayed Apple products. Nothing irks hipsters like a lack of attention. If you don’t notice them being ironically detached, what’s the point?

  • I appreciate quiet possibly more than the average bear, but I would never expect silence in a coffeehouse. People go there to work, but they also go there to meet friends…and talk.

    Cell phone conversations are a little different because usually people on cells talk louder than normal, and also I think it’s odd to hear one-sided conversations…they’re harder to tune out.

    But for the love of god, don’t get all “fuck you” on people who ask you to tone it down. What does that do except escalate a situation needlessly??

    • +1 on appropriateness of response. Maybe lack of civility is the norm for Internet posts, but I’d hope people don’t actually bring that into the ‘real’ face-to-face world.

      However, I think the talking on cell phones situation is different when it comes to buses/the metro. You can leave a coffee shop, but it’s somewhat harder to move from a bus seat (especially if at a window seat and the bus is packed).

    • +1. Telling a shusher “f*** you” is way out of proportion.

  • I agree. Those individuals need to be shot. Then look at the rest of the patrons and say “Shushin dont go round here! Savvy?”

  • As someone who regularly works in coffee houses, I go there BECAUSE of the activity and the low level noise. If I wanted total silence, I’d go to the library. I agree that if one conversation sticks out above the rest, it’s incredibly distracting, but that’s what you brought your earphones for. It’s a public place! But if someone’s being really annoying and you do want to say something for the good of everyone in the room, please be civil. Saying “fuck you” or shushing just makes things worse.

    • I think the commenter who proposed a “fuck you” was being facetious. I will say, if someone was ballsy enough to “shush” me in a coffee shop, my response would be a profanity free, civil, slightly sweet version of “fuck you”

      • i was the first commenter in this thread, and yeah, obviously i’m not gonna say fuck you to some 12 yr old kid, or a parent with their children, or some senior citizen. i am a moral and decent non agressive person. but i also think shushing is condescending, patronizing and rude, it’s a “shut up”, which i’m not going to take when i have every right to speak in a normal volume. in all likelihood i would say “whats the problem?” to someone.

        but i may say fuck you. in a polite and indoor volume. i may or may not even smile as i say it. oh well.

        • “Go forth and procreate with thyself”

        • If you’re so non-aggressive, why needlessly up the ante by saying “f*** you”?

          Is this what you’d do at a movie theater if someone attempted to shush you?

          • in a movie theater? no. but i’ve never been shushed in my life, except as a kid in school. maybe that’s why i’d be so flippant about it. i’m not a loud person, and if someone wants to confront me by shushing for me talking in a normal voice at a place like a coffee shop, i’m going call them on that.

  • Listen, there are dozens of coffee shops in the city. If it’s not quiet in the one you’re at, go to another one. The burden is on the person who’s offended by normal behavior — the shusher, not the shushee.

    If you are a quiet seeker, it’s easy. Grab headphones as someone mentioned above (Mozart or Bacharach) and chill out. On second thought, probably what you should do is listen to Flashdance and quietly hum along.

    • “Listen, there are dozens of coffee shops in the city.”

      do you have the right city?

      • Do you find that there is a dearth of coffeeshops in DC? There seems to be a whole mess of ’em, as far as I can tell.

        • I agree. Even without Starbucks, I know of dozens of places in the city. With Starbucks, you add about 100 locations with free wifi.

  • There’s no coffee served at a library or at church during Mass.

    There’s a false sense of entitlement her

  • Of course there’s talking at a coffee shop. This is about as ridiculous as getting yelled out for throwing a bag of dog poop in a trash can.

    • if it ain’t your trash can, it ain’t ridiculous.

      • Allowing people to use your trash can keeps them from dropping it on the ground. What exactly is the problem with someone dropping something in? Small things take up a fraction of the space. What exactly bothers you about that?

        Frankly, I enjoy seeing that someone has thrown there stuff in my can – I assume if they hadnt, it would be laying on the ground across my alley.

        • This has been rehashed here time and again, but I am going to assume you missed it. The trash collectors don’t dump the entire can into the truck. They take out each individual bag of trash and leave the small pieces of trash in the can (including the small bags of dog poop). Thus, the dog poop stays in the can. I’m sure you can imagine how much this starts to stink after say, a week, when it is hot outside and the trash can is closed.

          • Thats not true at all. My can gets emptied top to bottom, no matter how jammed it is, no matter how many small items are in them. In fact, I’ve watched them collect the trash, they pick them up and dump them in.

            Its not a mystery, you just are under some misconceptions. If the trashmen dont pick your trash up in this manner or they leave a decent amount behind, call 311.

          • Well, it is true where I live, apparently your assertion that it’s “not true at all” is false. I, too, have watched them empty the trash and the only take out the bags (they dump the recycling, though).

          • If they use this practice and they do not collect all of your trash, I suggest you call 311 and complain to them, instead of complain about the 14grams of dog shit that someone pitched in there.

            Its not a matter of whats right and whats wrong, its matter of taking care of the things that you can control and not getting all lathered up about the things you cant control.

          • I’m not “all lathered up” about it at all. And they aren’t obligated to collect trash that is not in bags, so calling 311 wouldn’t accomplish anything.

            And I actually didn’t complain as this has (luckily) never happened to me. I just explained why someone might be upset over it and why it’s a bigger deal than others might think. By informing someone of that, I was doing the little thing I can do to change it because I’m sure if more people realized that it’s more of an inconvenience than they think, they would think twice about doing it.

            From where I sit, you’re the one being defensive and “getting all lathered up.”

          • But, dog poop would be in bags, no?

          • That’s not in large trash bags, which I’m guessing you (and any reasonable person) knew I referring to. Individual bags aren’t the same and the trash collectors are not obligated to pick them up.

          • *Correction: individual small bags, the size which would typically contain dog poop

          • Kim – they are in fact obligated to take everything in the can. We have this issue and just keep calling 311 and it’s finally stopped and they take everything that’s in there. (The square cans are dumped by the thingy on the truck, so the trash collectors aren’t even touching the cans, unless they’re being lazy and/or are in a hurry.) If they’re not taking everything, call 311.

          • Apparently when I called 311 (on two separate occasions) they lied to me, then! Perhaps I’ll have to figure out someone else to call, since they expressly told me that they weren’t obligated to take trash that was in cans, but not bagged. Interesting to know that they are.

          • It took us probably a year to get it handled and like I said, it’s still not totally 100%. Grass clippings and stuff do have to be bagged, but otherwise, they have to take it all. I think at one point my neighbor talked to someone in the mayor’s office, and I know I’ve talked to people at DPW – so we definitely escalated it beyond 311 – but calling them every time was how we started.

          • saf

            Kim – call DPW and talk to Kevin. He knows what he is talking about and will help you out.

            (He’s the guy who handles their neighborhood listserve relationships and such.)

          • The fact that this appears to be SO VERY IMPORTANT to you is concerning.

        • And when you unwittingly put your trash on top of someone’s dog shit bag and said bag explodes said shit all over your trash can, you enjoy it?

          Man, your standards of acceptable behavior are low. How about this: Neither putting your dog’s waste in someone else’s trash nor littering it is acceptable.

          • Dog shit bags dont explode. Can you come up with any other ridiculous hypotheticals?

            How about this: I am both a homeowner and a dog owner and i dont litter nor do I use someone elses trash can, but I’d rather someone use my trashcan or my neighbors than leave the dog shit sitting on the sidewalk or litter in some other way.

            Get it now? Stop being thick.

          • A tied plastic bag won’t explode when enough weight is put on it? I can personally attest to this phenomenon.

            Or are you buying special non-breakable dog shit bags? Either way, it’s not your can, it’s not your property, grow up and leave it alone.

          • No, it wont explode. You’re being ridiculous.

            Bags explode that are both air tight and contain some significant amount of trapped air.

            They certainly wont explode with enough force to splatter dog shit all over the place. The best you could get is a “pop” and a sag.

          • Wildly off topic, maybe, but not ridiculous.

            I got hit with the double whammy this past summer, where a bag of dog poop that someone had put in my trash can sat for at least one trash collection before I noticed it. What made me notice it, you might ask? The fact that the bag ruptured and oozed poop when I put my own trash on top of it. And my trash can was on my property, but accessible from the sidewalk. So for those keeping score: 1) DPW doesn’t always do things the right way (gasp, I know), and 2) plastic produce bags from the supermarket can break and leak poop when under a little bit of pressure.

            Therefore, and I don’t think I’m being unreasonable here, please just hang on to your bag of dog waste until you get home. No yelling, no calling people ridiculous, just a request based on experience. And my actual experience beats your hypothetical “can’t happen.”

          • Oh, and talking in a coffee shop? Completely acceptable.

          • Can you all provide me with your addresses? Since you prefer the .00001% chance that a bag will “explode” instead of the near certainty that fewer accessible trash cans lead to more litter, I suppose you actually PREFER more litter. As a result, I will kindly ask all of the neighborhood vagrants to travel over to your address and drop their litter in your alley.

          • Did you know that 98.32% of all statistics are made up on the spot?

            Nice try, though.

          • My block has city trash cans (which are completely emptied nightly) on both ends. However, people still litter! Shocking that accessible trash cans don’t curb the behavior!

            The argument that personal trash cans are meant for public use is a strange one.

          • Lord have mercy, you people must have absolutely no real problems. I can’t imagine being so INCENSED!!!! that someone… put their trash in the incorrect trash can.

            Srsly. Are you spending a lot of time with your trash cans or something? Why is that?

          • just because one person doesn’t understand it, doesn’t mean it’s not a problem for another.

            not all of our situations are congruent.

          • Oh, I “understand it.” What I don’t understand is why it’s such an enormous deal to you, and that is, well, frankly is quite telling.

            In previous years in this city, that would be so low on the totem pole for complaints that it wouldn’t have even begun to register. I guess that’s why I’m so shocked that people would rather whine and complain about the WAYS that people are cleaning up instead of just being happy that someone bothered.

          • you understand but don’t understand.
            that makes sense.

            welcome to a place where people may have different concerns that yours.
            and a different sense of sanitation.

          • I understand that you’re clearly upset. I just think that you’re a loser for getting upset about that.

          • i can’t argue that i’m not a loser. thanks for the love trixie. and thanks for being dismissive of people you disagree with. judgement is very admirable.

          • Um. You’re posting anonymously on an internet blog about how upset you are that people are throwing away dog poop “incorrectly.” Yeah. I judge. Especially when there are a number of people in this city who aren’t going to eat tonight, whereas your problem could be solved by either bringing your trash cans in quickly after trash collection or washing them out with a hose and a little bleach.

            Instead, you would rather whine.

      • I’m not a homeowner, so I could care less if my dog’s poop bothers you.


    • Lulz. Forgot about that trashcan debate, classic. Now they’re shushing folks who have the audacity to have a conversation in a coffee shop. People really need to chill out and start interacting with the real world again.

  • Don’t talk, mime is money!

  • The poll needs a middle response– ambient level conversation. I’ve been in quite a few places where there’s a loudmouth ruining the place for everybody– usually all worked up halfway into a story that starts, OMG, you will NOT believe what just HAPPENED TO ME!!!”

    There’ve been plenty of times where I have hushed up a person with an annoyed glance, but I don’t think I would ever have the gall to ask them to shush it directly.

    • I feel like people should stay home if they can’t deal with the reality of social, public places. Whether it’s at Tryst, Wonderland or Whole Foods, people are going to laugh, drop their forks and you’ll hear their cell phones ring. Museums, libraries and fine dining are for those faint of ear.

  • bfinpetworth

    Watch “Friends.”. That is what a coffee shop should be like. Most people I know prefer the constant din of a public space over the quiet of the library and thus work in coffee shops. Thr occasional loudmouth is just something we, in a collective environment, must deal wit now and then. No shsshing in coffee shops!

    • lol. yeah and my manhattan apt “should be like” the 3000 sf loft, which I “should” be able to afford with my waitress salary.

      • They were illegally subletting their dead great aunt’s rent-controlled loft. Or something… not that I ever watched the show.

        Also, the shop, “Central Perk” was in the Village, which makes no sense. Again, not that I would know.

        • Emmaleigh504

          dead grandmother

        • I’ve actually structured my whole life around “Friends”! In fact, I was deeply in love with my sister’s best friend for like a decade and a half, but was too chickensh-t to say a word to her. And anyway, she couldn’t have given half a flying rat’s ass less whether I came or went. In fact she thought I was a big dweeb.

          But then! She accidentally found out that I was carrying this torch for her all these years and INSTANTLY fell madly in love with me! Miracle of miracles!

          I know, I know! It sounds like a bunch of horse sh-t to me, too, but hey, that’s exactly how life is sometimes, right?

          • Are you a paleontologist, working for the Smithsonian?

            You should dump her and marry a British woman.

        • do they not have puns in the village?

      • me

        No way Monica’s place was 3000sqft. 1000 at the most.

    • I’m proud to say that I’ve never seen an entire episode of Friends.

  • doesn’t anybody think that a lot of this is up to the shop owners?

    • I think Mid City has banned laptops on weekends?

      I know that Politics and Prose’s coffee shop basically removed all of their plugs, so unless you bring your own power source, you have to leave within a couple of hours.

      • Similar (as I’m sure you guys know): Tryst turns off their wifi on weekends.

        As someone who used to work there almost daily, I love the ambient noise and the randomness of people and their conversations. When I needed to focus, I’d put in my headphones. No big deal.

        and I have no problem with their wifi-less weekends.

      • Mid City Caffe did not ban laptops on weekends.



        • shush you.

        • It’s so crowded on the weekend, I’m amazed anyone tries to work there. The bar stools basically limit how long I can warm a seat anyways.

          MCC is a great place to work, though, and I have never seen shushing there. The coffee is great too.

          I’m there right now!

          • yeah, but they should turn up the music or something so it doesn’t feel like a library. it’s so freaking quiet in there that I get so self conscious just walking in and it makes me not want to hang out.

            I do like that they have a ton of seating. peregrine, on the other hand, totally wasted their opportunity to make a decent space on 14th. it’s pretty but TOTALLY impractical. the counter staff have all the space and if somebody is sitting on the stool and somebody is in line, the entire store is blocked. also, the space is so uncomfortably flooded with direct sun inthe mornings that having your coffee in the shop is not an option. It seems like it’s only for those who want to grab a $4 coffee on the way to work, when really it should also be a good place for having a cup with friends. ugh, I’m just mad about the missed opportunity there. end rant.

          • I agree regarding Peregrine. That place f’ed up pretty badly. There’s nowhere to sit and chill inside OR outside. I understand dissuading people doing work, but if you’re going to have no space to sit, you have to be across from a park or something. I also agree that there is no shade, no trees, etc.

            I want to go there, but if I’m going to get a coffee to go, I might as well go to Starbucks.

            There Hill location is nice, but I don’t expect this one to last more than 6 months.

  • Coffee shops are for talking. If you need to concentrate on your blog no one reads or your resume for that job you’ll never get, stay ion your house.

    • are you bitter you didn’t get that job you wanted and that no one visits your blog? 🙁 i’m sorry

  • Maybe the OP went to a coffee shop owned by the Milford Academy.

  • kiki

    Was this at MidCity? Because I LOVE to work there, however, when someone calls me (probably for work reasons) I feel terrible because it’s so silent in there! People look at you funny if you pull your chair out with too much noise.

    • Jees…sounds like a fun place.

      • right? MidCity sounds like a snore

        • It’s a coffee shop. So, I can’t imagine anyone would find it super thrilling with or without the silence.

          Maybe you should get your coffee at McD’s and go play on the Hamburglar slide or Grimace seesaw if you’re looking for excitement.

    • I love doing work at Mid City. But, I did meet someone there to chat once and felt a little awkward because we were the only people talking (quietly).

      I also like doing work at Tryst which is completely different than Mid City. To be honest, I wish I could find a mid-way point between the two. Tryst cranked their music so loud the last time I was there that I started getting a headache. Meanwhile, if Mid City plays music at all, I’ve never noticed it.

      Anyone have a suggestion in/around columbia heights/ U Street/ Adams Morgan that fits the bill?

  • I work at MidCity 1-2 times a week, and it is extremely quiet there, but I never expect it to be quiet.

    I’ve worked next to people having conversations with friends or working on a project with a small group, and I’ve NEVER had a problem with it. As far as I’m concerned, it’s a coffee shop, and I expect to hear some noise. If I wanted extreme quiet, I would go work at home or in a library, but I do work away from home because I like a little background noise.

    I’ve never heard anyone shush anyone else there, but I did sit next to a couple once who said, “Sorry if our talking is bothering you.” I explained that not only did it not bother me, but I was gad people were socializing there.

    Anyway, as one of those freelance laptop workers, I would be irritated if I heard shushing. If the noise is really bothering someone, they should go to the library, or get some noise-canceling headphones. There are lots of quiet places to work in DC, but coffee shops should not be one of them.

    • A few weeks ago at MidCity, I sat down with my espresso, and opened and unfolded my crisp, unread copy of the NY Times. Crinkle, Crinkle: It was like a gun going off. Everyone looked up from their laptops and scowled at me for disturbing the peace!

      • Maybe they just looked up to see what the noise was.

        I know sometimes I’m working away, I hear a noise and glance randomly at the source. Basically, the same response as a dog to a noise, but if I scowl, it’s more that I’m scowling at all of the frustrating things I’m working on and that I’m not reading the paper and enjoying myself.

        I have a feeling that may be the same as others. But, I have seen scowling, and I find that irritating.

        I was at MCC once, and a woman came in with a 3-year old and sat and shared a muffin with him. I’ve never seen so many eye rolls and looks of disgust from the laptop mafia there. It irritated me so much that people were so rude that I took off my headphones and engaged the 3-year old in a conversation. This seemed to relax the mother and entertain the kid, and after 5 minutes, they had finished and left, but the looks of disgust I received from people amazed me. I found that it was a nice break to share a minute talking with her and her son.

        • Along these lines- my “relaxed yet concentrating” face has an uncanny resemblance to me “so pissed off I’m going to kill you” face.

          I apologize to everyone I’ve unintentionally “scowled” at in coffee shops. It’s just how my face looks!

  • It’s been said. It’s not a library. Fuck ’em.

  • white people crazy

  • It sounds like the OP is more upset that they were shushed and maybe the situation would have been different if the shusher came over and said “hey, do you mind keeping your voice down just a little?”.

    IMHO, coffeeshops are for studying/working/intimate coversations between two people at a table. Although it’s impossible that your converstion won’t go beyond your table, people should try to be respectful of others while still getting to do what they want to do. SHould coffee shops be silent – no way!

    I totally agree that the people who want to return a shush with a “fuck you” are ridiculous. Is there a reason we need to make every situation go aggressive? GEEZ!

  • me

    I have a question for you all- I’ve been shushed, and I do not have a loud voice at all. I was just having a normal conversation with my husband, and I was even trying to keep it down. If this happened to you and you were shushed, what would your reaction be?

    I just pretty much gave her the stink-eye and we were leaving soon anyhow, so I just let it go. But if you had just sat down, gotten shushed….. what would you do? 🙂

    • I am not one for aggression, but being shushed is an aggression starter. I would probably start by saying, “You’re in public, and we’re having a normal conversation. If that bothers you, I would suggest you invest in some noise-canceling headphones or go home.” If you get shushed again, a nice “Fuck off” after being courteous the first time is perfectly fine.

      That said, where do people here go? I work at coffee shops all over the city, and I have neither been a shusher, shushee, and I have actually never even witnessed or heard a shushing in progress. Maybe I go to the wrong coffee places.

      I also suggest that coffee shops can lower expectations of quiet by increasing the noise level of the music slightly. Starbucks has always done a good job of making places comfortable for working but not TOO comfortable.

  • I’d tell them to fuck off.

  • What would Linda Richman say?
    As long as its reasonable and people three tables over can’t easily hear what you are saying – you are fine.
    Cell phones like cigarettes should be used outside.
    If you want quiet stay at home,go to a library or use ear plugs.

    And if you have the time in the afternoon to sit in a coffee shop why are you complaining – enjoy it!

  • pablo .raw

    Studying or working in a social place like a coffee shop expecting that everybody stays quiet because of what you are doing is a little bit not realistic. It’s like if a runner goes to a coffee shop and expects everybody to move away because he needs to run.

  • me

    I would be more likely be irritated with someone who was one person, yet has strewn their papers/bags/laptops/etc all over enough space for 5 people, treating the coffee shop as if it’s their own living room, rather than anyone who was speaking a bit loud.

  • I’d just ignore the shusher…

  • Good ol’ DC. This is almost as ridiculous as when I was asked to stop playing Big Buck Hunter AT A BAR on election night in ’08 so a girl could hear Obama speak. I guess she expected complete silence at a bar just like she would expect at a coffee shop

    • yeah, well election night IS different. i’ll put it this way, it’s kind of like the superbowl for politics.

      • Ok well if you were at a bar for the Super Bowl would you expect silence from everyone else there so you could hear the announcers? I really doubt it.

        • you don’t really want to understand, do you?

        • That’s not the same at all b/c the announcers aren’t the main event – it’s the game, which is visual and can be enjoyed w/out sound. A better analogy would be “if you were at a bar for the SuperBowl would you expect people not to block the tv so you couldn’t see” and the answer is, “You’re goddamned right I would.”

          • +1 Election night in DC is very special. Moreover, 2008 was a a historic election. If you’re playing Big Buck Hunter while the first black president gives his acceptance speech, you’re very out of touch. That was a night you tell your grandkids about — be you Dem, GOP, or other. I’m not saying I’d interrupt your game of BBH, but I’d def note that you’re marching to the beat of a very different drum.

          • Really? I don’t care two cents for Big Buck Hunter, but I also don’t find any election to be emotional to the point of retelling it to my grandkids. Retell what, exactly? “Hey kids, the prez gave a speech!” “Thanks, gramps.”

          • You obviously weren’t in DC for the election. Dancing in the streets, traffic jams at midnight, etc. When’s the last time any mass celebration like that happened in your lifetime? This was a once in a lifetime event.

            Welcome to DC. 😉

          • You might wanna check yourself or bother to ask others before you claim what’s “obvious” and a “once in a lifetime event.” I lived in DC long before the 2008 election. Everybody isn’t “new” here, ya know. Maybe when you’re an adult you’ll understand.

            Welcome to maturity.

      • If one wants to catch every breathy utterance, then I’d suggest watching it at HOME, not in a bar.

        • You beat me to it, I was going to say the exact same thing. I don’t care what night it is, going to a bar and complaining about noise is like going to a concert and wondering why they have to play the music so darn loud

          • you ever go to a bar in dc during an important political event or emergency? i have. people here watch these events fairly quietly. 9.11 . shock and awe. katrina. debates. state of the union speeches. election night results. people listen. in bars. it’s our culture here.

          • Still, (as much as you may desire it) you can’t expect that every single patron of the place will be in the same rapt, stunned silence as you, or care as much about that particular event (911 and other devastating emergencies aside).

            A bar is a bar. People will be drinking, talking, laughing and playing Big Buck Hunter (for some gawdawful reason).

          • yeah no shit taylor. and people will always talk at movie theaters and people will always drive poorly.

            you missed the point that people do generally quiet down in many important instances. not stunned, but engaged.

          • Your examples don’t work for me. Everyone is EXPECTED – and in fact, INSTRUCTED by the management to be silent in a movie theater. So, talkers would deserve to be told to quiet down.

            And driving? Jeez, people’s lives depend on everybody driving safely.

            Poor driving and movie talking are not acceptable behaviors. Playing a video game in a bar is – no matter what night it is or what’s on TV.

            The original comment was about the girl expecting complete silence in a place where silence (or even a quiet atmosphere) is not customary. So no, I don’t think I missed the point.

  • I wish all coffeeshops would just have a 15 min. laptop-free period every hour – kind of like “adult swim,” where people would be forced to interact.

    The culture has definitely changed over the past few years to more isolated keyboard people, instead of people reading various papers, magazines, books which might – at a communal table – lead to casual discussion with other humans.

    Check out “The Coffee House: A Cultural History”

    “For a hundred years the coffeehouse occupied the center of urban life, creating a distinctive social culture. They played a key role in the explosion of political, financial, scientific, and literary change in the 18th century, as people gathered, discussed, and debated issues within their walls.

  • Wow. Over 100 comments (and counting!) on shushing in a coffeeshop!
    I think that race baiter was right: White people ARE crazy!


    • I would instead suggest that affluent people are crazy…

      I see plenty of black, brown, yellow, red, and purple people at coffee shops. The one thing they seem to have in common are that they have very soft hands and are likely over-educated.

      • If you have a job in DC that requires rough hands, you’re doing it wrong.

        • I forgot that nobody here actually makes or builds anything of concrete value.

        • 1) Plumbers have rough hands

          2) There are lots of plumbers in DC who make more than you

          3) Plumbers have no debt from school. All these law school grads with $150k debt living in group houses — well, there’s nothing wrong with that, but the plumber has been debt free and earning a living wage since their training period. At 18, you can make $40k. At 30, you might be clearing $100k with no debt obligations, besides the mortgage on your $400 – $500k home.

          How is that “wrong”?

          • Just last night we were discussing the financial (and other) advantages of owning your own plumbing or heating/ac biz. Short training/apprenticeship period as you note, and little to no loan debt, good pay, providing a valuable skill and service, and the biggie–recession proof. People may put off upgrades, but repairs are needed regardless of the economy.

  • If it’s Tryst you have to scream for the person next to you to hear you, anyway.

  • I’m like one bad crowd experience away from becoming a full on shut in, so I’ve never understood the appeal of working in coffee shops or places that aren’t your house (or office… with the door shut), but sometimes I am forced to go to coffee shops to meet with clients and I always find it awkward to have work conversations when it seems like everyone can hear you. (Most recently this happened at Big Bear) I will say that peregrine has a good level of noise for meetings – enough so that you’re not the only people talking, but not so much that you can’t hear yourself.

    However, shushing is incredibly rude and absolutely warrants a “fuck off.” (b/c what is the correct civil response? the shushing wasn’t civil to begin with, and it’s not like you’re going to politely convince the shusher that you’re not actually doing anything wrong and a “fuck off” is a succinct way to state your position on the matter)

    • I agree that a “f’ off” seems extremely uncivil, but shushing is extremely passive aggressive and pretty uncivil.

      If someone asked me nicely to be quiet, I wouldn’t, but at least I’d respond politely or explain politely why not.

      • But don’t you think that would escalate the whole thing? There’s no winning that conversation – for either side, so instead of just telling the shusher to fuck off and then everyone moves on, you’re having a whole conversation about something for which there is no resolution. Seems to lack the efficiency of a simple fuck off.

        I guess the other efficient option would be just to say no and leave it at that.

        • I say you start politely, and if they protest, you proceed to the “f off” stage. At least you know you tried to take the high road, as well as everyone around you.

          Starting politely takes, maybe, 20 seconds, and it won’t escalate it as much as instant profanity. Again, if they try to engage you in a whole conversation, you can just brush them off as crazy.

          Also, saying “no”, like you suggest, is probably preferable. No profanity, but you make your point.

          Regardless, I have never actually seen or experienced any shushing at any coffee shop, so this whole thing seem largely moot. Plus, 99% of people think talking is fine, so I still want to know where this happened to the OP.

  • its a fine line. if people are talking at an obnoxious level then at least be nice about shushing them. (anyone find the noise of shushing more annoying than a simple “please be quiet”?)

    but, if you need a quiet place to study, go home or to a library. you’re in a place of business with countless numbers of people walking in and out. and unless you text the cashier your order, words have to be said. Maybe the people studying should stop worrying about other people talking and start worrying about taking seats for hours on end long after they’ve finished their drink.

  • Too bad your poll didn’t have a third option: IT DEPENDS ON THE PLACE!

    Nobody shuts up in Starbucks, and nobody much talked the few times I was in the coffee place over Miss Pixie’s. Nobody talked much in Borders in Friendship Heights, either.
    At Bus Boys & Poets, there are quiet tables, but everyone yaks at the bar or in the dining area. It DEPENDS!

  • I was bartending at Tom Tom when Bush was re-elected, you could hear a pin drop. complete silence anytime results came in… then tears….then calls for more shots

    • Thanks for the assist. For those that don’t know, Tom Tom’s is a very loud college bar. It’s not exactly the place where you’d expect to see focused attention to the election — except in Washington, where (nearly) everyone gives a damn and is super tuned in. One of the things that makes this city great.

      I was up the street from you in 2004 — one of many neighborhoods I passed through that night. Owner of the bar offered to buy a round for everyone if Kerry won. Such a letdown.

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