46/300: The Little Coffee Shop

It’s where I have meetings outside of work, where I get together with a friend to talk about all the things we’d like to do. It’s small, cozy, the kind of place that would be hard to replicate. The coffee is delicious. The people who work there are friendly. There’s a couch, a bar, some tables if you want to work. It can be a little noisy in the morning – grinders prepping beans, the full steam hiss of the espresso machine, people huddled together talking.

It used to be another place, a big chain that went out of business or was bought out or whatever happens to the also-rans in the Starbucks dominated coffee shop industry. I liked that place too, but I like this place more. You can get a bottomless cup for here for $4. They make their pastries and breakfast sandwiches. There’s a little globe covered in chalkboard paint next to the front register where, every morning, a trivia question is written. Get the right answer and you get a discount. Get it wrong and they’ll tell you the right one. I had no idea that the longest one syllable word in the English language is ‘screeched.’ I would never have guessed.

The name of the place is CAVU, which is appropriate. It’s owned by a pilot and a flight attendant – that’s what I’ve been told anyway – and CAVU stands for “Ceiling and Visibility Unlimited,” a short-hand term for perfect flying conditions. I like that. I like that the name is personal and meaningful. I like how understanding what it means brews in a sense of optimism. It gives me a sense of pride that I choose to drink their coffee when there is a Starbucks 30 yards across the street.

I like that, this morning, I opted for a large Americano and the woman behind the counter, the one who is often there in the morning, knew that I wanted some ice in it. She remembered how prone I am to burning my tongue on the first sip of the day. I drank slowly while meeting with some friends to talk about their business. They had never been there before. I felt like I was hosting them at my kitchen table. I felt ownership over the sounds, the smells, the ambiance of the place.

This place, this tiny corner of a strip mall, is personal to me. It’s personal to the faces I often see there – the big guy in the tie and dress pants who flirts with the staff, the carpenters who hash out plans in the back corner, the pastor who meets with members of his congregation there. It’s not manufactured to be personal. There’s no big data involved, no loyalty cards, no membership numbers. You can get a 10th cup free card, but I never remember to get it stamped. It’s personal because you’re greeted when you walk in the door, they remember you hate burning your tongue, they know that you like the light roast in the bottomless cup. They know that you go there to meet with people, to talk about projects, to maybe get a little writing done and that Friday is your day. Not every Friday and not only Friday, but most of the time.

In a world where privacy and personalization are in the national conversation from government to Google, this place stands apart. It’s a bit of both. It’s mostly both. And it brings me back. The only data they have on me is human data. They know I can’t leave the register without knowing they answer to the trivia question, even if they don’t know my name. Or, maybe they do, but they don’t want to pry.

They keep it simple at CAVU. Great coffee, good service, a clean and easy atmosphere. It’s everything I want and nothing that I don’t need. It’s the best way to start a Friday. At a table by the window with some friends and a project, some work to do and a hot cup of coffee. But not too hot.

They already know I don’t want it too hot.

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