During one of my many trips to New York City this past Summer I decided to check out the neighborhood of Chelsea for the first time and absolutely fell in love. It came across as a very laid back place, unlike some other parts of Manhattan where you’re surrounded by briskly passing high-heeled pumps and briefcases.
As I do often on long days of exploring, I eventually started looking for a coffeehouse where I could rest my feet, open my laptop and get some writing done. I try to stay away from big chains when I’m in a new place because I love the feel of small neighborhood coffeehouses.
With that being said I stumbled into Cafe Grumpy’s located on 224 W. 20th Street. It was everything you could ask for in a small coffeehouse with exposed brick and a rustic yet modern feel.
As I was waiting to order my drink I noticed several signs posted stating the “no laptop” policy. When I asked the lady behind the counter why that was she explained that they wanted to promote a “free space” environment. While I wasn’t entirely sure what that meant I went with it.
I’m not gonna lie, I was pretty disappointed that I couldn’t open up the ole’ MacBook and get some work done but I wanted to respect the policy. With no book or magazine as backup I started a conversation with the man at the table next to me. I admitted to him that I didn’t know what to do with myself and he politely told me that he couldn’t relate to my dilemma as he made it a point to stay away from technology as much as possible. I then noticed his open notebook and, as if to prove his point, he proceeded to show me pages and pages of handwriting. I cannot remember the last time I wrote in an actual notebook (high school, perhaps?)
He proceeded to show me his very outdated flip phone while explaining his aversion to having a smart phone. He didn’t think it was necessary to have abundance of useless information at his fingertips nor did he need to see his emails the second they reached his inbox.
By no means was he cocky in his explanations. He simply needed nothing more than pen and paper to pass the time and I found that refreshing. After the rather pleasant conversation he politely excused himself leaving me, once again, alone with nothing to do. I had hoped to meet another stranger to talk to but when that didn’t happen I wandered back out to resume exploring.
I had a great time walking down the tiny, stoop-filled streets and would recommend that anyone visiting the area check out Chelsea Market for a meal and shopping. And while I enjoyed the unexpected twist of Cafe Grumpy’s, I have to admit that at the end of the day I found myself at a Starbucks drinking a latte and surfing the web.