Whose Chair?

It’s my chair today. That’s definitely not always the case, and it’s all because of Richard. I’m only aware of Richard’s name because that’s what everyone (the staff and customers alike) calls him at the Starbucks I frequent in Sun City, Arizona. The scene there is reminiscent of the Norm from Cheers situation – cue the music- “where everybody knows your name.” I’m one of the few exceptions though; the folks at this particular Starbucks don’t know my name, and I truly hope it remains that way since I prefer to stay “off the grid” as much as possible. Even though Richard doesn’t know my name, or anything about me, I’m sure he thinks of me as “the guy who steals his chair.”

Therein lies the problem with my newfound nemesis. Once or twice a week, for approximately the past year, I’ve been patronizing the Sun City coffee shop mostly on days when I really need to focus on my writing. My words just have a tendency to flow from my pen a little better when seated at that location. However, I assume Richard has also been a faithful customer, of the same establishment, but for a much longer time than I have been. In addition, he visits the store at least 6 days a week (I’m never there on Sundays to know if it’s actually 7). Therefore, apparently Richard (and seemingly most everyone else) thinks he’s entitled to the chair of his choice, which happens to be the exact one I’ve grown fond of, whenever he walks through the front door.

The whole ordeal has added much undesired drama to my life. Whenever Richard shows up, and I have already established position, he’s visibly irritated with the situation. He rarely says anything (at least loud enough for me to hear) about the “injustice” I’ve supposedly done to him. He doesn’t have to because many customers, and even some of the staff, freely mention it nearly every time this scenario occurs. They never say anything to me directly, when relentlessly referring to the chair I’m occupying as being Richard’s, but they don’t lower their voices either when discussing the matter amongst themselves. I pretend not to notice their senseless dialogue.

The most absurd thing I’ve overheard thus far, regarding the seating arrangements, was when my archrival was away on vacation. One Starbucks’ employee was telling another that Richard had called and said he was going to be gone an extra day and to not let anyone take his chair while he was away. To my knowledge, neither Richard’s name nor mine is stitched into the chair’s dark brown leather to suggest any type of ownership. Neither of us purchased the piece of furniture as well, so I would assume becoming the chair’s occupant is on a first-come, first-served basis – as it should be. That is certainly not the case (at least at one time) with a booth located at a rib joint in downtown Minneapolis, Minnesota.

In the mid-eighties Rock and Funk legend, Prince, bought the rights to a specific booth, inside Rudolphs Bar-B-Que, during his reign over the music industry. Only the artist’s most devoted fans are aware of this little-known fact about him. Of course, that’s the reason why I know. No one was to ever inhabit his booth, regardless of how crowded the place might be, in case Prince had a sudden hankering for some ribs. His unconventional purchase guaranteed him a reservation at a moment’s notice. Aww…to be disgustingly rich. I still like the entertainer nonetheless.

The funny thing about the Richard saga is that there are three other identical chairs at the Sun City Starbucks, but apparently neither my nemesis nor myself fancies them as much as we fancy the one in the corner. That’s right. There are a total of four indistinguishable chairs, arranged in pairs, at my favorite Starbucks, yet obviously Richard and I are only content, for whatever reason, occupying the same one. I suspect it’s because our chair is snugly positioned, surrounded by windows, and is furthest away from the incoming traffic and all of the noisy regulars. In addition, there are two other Starbucks nearby; however, they have some challenges for a guy such as myself who depends on a little peace and quiet when attempting to write his next masterpiece.

The coffee shop to the east (in Glendale) opens a little later and is usually overrun by as many as seven construction workers. They invade the compact area, with the only comfortable chairs in the store, at the precise time I prefer to tackle my writing for the day. They’re predictably boisterous, and sometimes even obnoxious, while utilizing the stereotypical language of blue-collar workers. It’s no mystery why it’s difficult for me to concentrate in the midst of all of that. The main obstacle I encounter at the Starbucks up north (in Peoria), a mere mile from my home, is that I’m constantly interrupted by people who’ve come to know me there. I sometimes feel like Norm at that location because people tend to want to sit by me and carry on conversations. Not good if your main objective is to be productive. Besides, the chairs up north aren’t nearly as comfy as the one in Sun City.

The real problem, as I see it, is Richard has gone to great lengths recently in preventing me from claiming his chair. He used to mosey into Starbucks around 6:00am, and he’d stay for about an hour and a half. I normally was already there by that time, consistently arriving around 5:00am, since I’m an early riser and that particular store opens at 4:00am. Suddenly, Richard began coming to the coffee shop earlier and earlier until one day he was finally sitting in my chair when I showed up at my usual time. I can’t believe my adversary has decided to rearrange his entire life just for the sake of a piece of furniture.

On second thought, I can somewhat relate because I countered with a minor adjustment myself. I began setting my alarm clock instead of just waking up on my own, as was previously the case, so I’d have a better shot at seizing the all-too elusive chair. I’m fully aware the Bible says, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth,” but my alpha dog mentality has been too strong for me to resist. Now when I pull into the Sun City Starbucks’ parking lot at 4:15am, many times Richard is there. I’ll be darned if I’m going to resort to standing at the front door of any establishment, waiting for the business to open, just to capture a desired chair.

Whenever I see Richard already relaxing in my chair I don’t even bother stopping anymore; I simply continue on to one of the other two aforementioned Starbucks. I’m positive Richard does the same thing, if I get there first, because we haven’t been inside the same coffee shop at the same time for quite a long while. I only wish to patronize the Starbucks in Sun City once or twice a week, as I mentioned before, so I’m astonished by Richard’s selfish shenanigans especially since he has easy access to our chair the rest of the week. I guess one Starbucks just isn’t big enough for the both of us.

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