In honor of Espwesso’s opening night for the semester on Sunday, Sept. 7, I hung out at Wesleyan’s student-run late night cafe for all five hours it was open and recorded events as they unfolded. Unfortunately, coffee shops tend not to generate major action. What ensued instead was a night of confusion, frustration, desperation, and ultimately, delirium.
8:54 p.m. With a thick stack of reading and a sizeable stash of Weshop candy, I set up shop at a table and prepare for what is bound to be a long, over-caffeinated night. The unfortunately-named Espwesso does not open for another six minutes, but the room is already packed to the brim with students eager to get their coffee fix.
9:01 p.m. Espwesso technically opened a minute ago, but our barista has fallen behind. She begins making the coffee, but interrupts the task to give a dramatic reading of the label on the bag. “Smoky with a deep blackberry flavor: that could be a slam poem,” she announces to the room. People have loud conversations, but the whir of the coffee machine blocks out most of the noise. I do manage to overhear the phrase “paternalism” and the comment, “This book makes me want to eat weird Russian food.” This is why, I suppose.
9:08 p.m. Someone makes the reasonable request for coffee and is asked to return in 20 minutes. The barista explains that it is Espwesso’s first day back. The customer accepts this excuse.
9:19 p.m. The barista announces that Espwesso is officially open, and everyone in the room cheers. The cheers are interrupted when the barista announces that Espwesso is not, in fact, officially open. Drip coffee is available, but we are instructed not to order a specialty drink. I am confused: since when are specialty drinks the official marker of Espwesso’s opening? If I have coffee in Espwesso after 9 p.m., but the London Fog, which contains no coffee at all, is not yet available, am I not in fact at Espwesso? Where am I?
My fellow Espwesso-goers seem unperturbed by this philosophical dilemma. They flock to the drip coffee like villagers to a well. I notice that most are equipped with their own drinking vessels. The vessels are very hip: tiny Mason jars and stainless steel thermoses. I want coffee, too, but I am self-conscious. I will have to pay for a paper cup, and I am not yet ready for that public humiliation.
9:34 p.m. I realize I have been staring at the same page of reading for 20 minutes. Is it the sultry mood lighting or my neighbors’ witty banter about Tinder that is making it impossible to concentrate? I eat something that resembles a watermelon Sour Patch Kid, but which is too large to be a Sour Patch proper.
9:46 p.m. Three people come in to buy specialty drinks, but the WesCard machine is not working. Espwesso declares itself cash-only for the night. This presents further questions about whether Espwesso is technically open or not, but I let them rest for the moment. I can’t handle that kind of stress right now.
9:50 p.m. After finagling with the computer for some time, the barista announces, “I won!” The WesCard machine is now working, albeit only with Middletown Cash. The London Fogs start flowing.
9:53 p.m. I overcome my vessel anxiety and pay the 25 cents for a paper cup. I hope the hip vessel people will at least think I am normcore.
I get the special blend of coffee, named Kilimanjaro for its smoky flavor. There are no coffee filters, and I am warned that the coffee might be grainy. I note that this is the opposite of Instagram, where filters usually make things grainy. I get no response. Things are getting desperate, and it’s not even 10 p.m. yet.
10:05 p.m. Music comes on, and now I stand no chance of getting anything done. I am still on the same page of my reading.
10:17 p.m. My co-editor stops by, and I am temporarily energized.
10:20 p.m. The people at the table next to me offer to “do something crazy” to revive my slowly-dying live blog. Sacrificing journalistic integrity, I encourage them, hoping to record something interesting. They agree to weep collectively. The idea excites me very much, but the people don’t deliver. One girl lets out a fake sob, and they all return to their conversation. I consider weeping myself.
10:37 p.m. I get my second cup of coffee. #nofilter.
10:51 p.m. I ask someone to live blog my live blogging and he rejects my proposal. “Think of it as performance art!” I plead. “It would be soooo meta.” It crosses my mind that he might have taken my suggestion seriously if only I had an artful drinking vessel.
11:12 p.m. A girl pulls her keys out of her backpack and is surprised to find a tiny whisk attached to the end of them. Someone at the table next to mine is working on a drawing project about negative space and asks if she can borrow the whisk. The girl happily gives up the whisk and reveals that it has special powers; having brought her very good fortune in the past. I think I understand what she means by this: the whisk has already worked its magic on me by adding a moment of intrigue to this article. I wonder who the target audience is for such a tiny whisk. Toddlers with a penchant for meringue? I feel like this is the same niche group that would get a kick out of the word “Espwesso.”
11:28 p.m. I realize how far behind I am in my reading and shovel handfuls of candy into my mouth. My selection consists of the aforementioned obese Sour Patch Kids, Swedish Fish (I wonder if these, too, are impostors), malted milk balls, and Reese’s Pieces. In elementary school, I had teacher who regularly skipped lunch and ate handfuls of Reese’s Pieces instead. I’ve always wanted to consume Reese’s Pieces without abandon, so I privately celebrate my coming-of-age moment with more candy. I’m a grown woman and I can stress-eat whatever I want.
11:51 p.m. I try to concentrate on my reading, but there is a loud and intriguing conversation about dick pics at the table next door. I tune in. Espwesso is not conducive to work, but its atmosphere is a breeding ground for weird and fascinating interactions.
12:00 a.m. Someone says, “I feel like I’m turning into an AOL chatroom.” The longer I ponder this sentiment, the more deeply I relate to it.
12:06 a.m. I google “big sour patch watermelon” and conclude that no such product exists, meaning that Weshop’s version is not brand name. I thought I would have strong feelings about this, but as it turns out, I really don’t care.
12:08 a.m. I stand up for the first time since getting my last cup of coffee.
12:29 a.m. I arrived at Espwesso with a dark, heart-shaped bruise on my upper arm (how I got this bruise remains unclear). The bruise, like my interest in this project, has faded significantly in the past three and a half hours.
12:36 a.m. Sufjan Stevens plays, and though I am usually a fan, I get irritated. “This is too twee for my mood,” I announce, and then proceed to cry-laugh. The crowd has thinned significantly, but my increasing delirium keeps me company.
1:02 a.m. The barista finishes cleaning up and offers me the remaining coffee before she throws it away. Possibly for the first time in my life, I decline free coffee. I question my sanity as I pack up my unread readings and leave.