In college the coffee shop kitty corner to one end of campus was this place called Summit Coffee. The name was meant to warn incoming customers of the café’s overall mountaineering theme. Why do so many coffee shops decide to run with a theme that seems to have absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with serving coffee? Have you noticed that’s a thing that coffee shop proprietors tend to do? And have you ever been in a seafood restaurant with a mountaineering theme?
I’m not going to sit here and deny that I spent a fuckload of time in Summit during college. Because I did, especially my freshman year. And I don’t know why I did—I didn’t even like the atmosphere all that much; the downstairs was this very narrow, cramped space where people stood in line right next to your table all afternoon, and the upstairs had this kind of plywood unfinished feel. I think I just liked the idea of myself as a college student, studying in a coffee shop—I had seen every episode of Felicity, after all. I don’t remember what kind of coffee I was drinking at this time in my life, but I do remember that one time while studying upstairs I ate an entire box of Summit’s signature chocolate-covered espresso beans and for a few hours after that felt just exactly like Jesse Spano in the methamphetamine episode of Saved by the Bell.
Sooner or later, though, I figured out that the students who spent all their free time studying at Summit were the worst. Around campus you could just say, “Oh, you know, she goes to Summit,” and you’d know everything you needed to know about that person. The Summit regular was: “over-caffeinated” even before his or her first sip of that triple-shot soymilk latte. The Summit man was: into animal rights, felt conflicted about whether or not he loved his best friend, wore a frayed friendship bracelet one of his “kids” had given him on a trip to “Africa” where he’d been working with this clean water charity. Meanwhile, the Summit woman either:
1) wore her hair in pigtails; loved O.A.R, loved Guster; always carried markers in her bookbag (for making colorful flashcards, natch); and was hyperactively pre-med, on student government, and way too enthusiastic about the pan-African clean water charity she’d been trying to get off the ground
2) was kind of quiet in that hushed overcommitted martyr fashion, very thin because she was always just so busy that she would forget to eat lunch; had faint blue rings under her eyes—a result of staying up all night listening to Joni Mitchell and “journaling”—that somehow made her more rather than less pretty; designed her own major; and, if you made the mistake of stopping by her table to give her a high-five like the rest of the bongo-playing goateed idiots who’d fallen in love with her “vulnerability” and were longing for an excuse, any excuse, to touch her in even the least sexualized of ways, she would sigh and make cryptic comments about how everything had been “so crazy” with trying to get this pan-African clean water charity start-up off the ground and how she’s just trying to stay “fully present” and have an “intentioned mind.”
And, you know, fuck you and your African clean water charity. I’ve always had a problem with overachievers, and that probably has more to do with my own personal failure to live up to a grandiose sense of my own potential, but wow did Summit really bring out the worst in me. First of all, I wanted to say, seething in my crushed velvet chair, eyes squinting hatefully over the top of my anthropology textbook, Africa isn’t a country. It’s a fucking continent. Second of all, don’t you want to have some fun? Don’t you want to waste some time? These are the years in which life still seems infinite. Embrace that! Don’t you want to get so stoned with your best friends that you can’t finish cooking dinner because you’re laughing too hard and so instead you order giant Styrofoam containers of shrimp fried rice from that sushi place that takes CatCards and stay up all night watching old scary movies like The Birds and Rosemary’s Baby?
No, of course you don’t, because you would never eat something that came packaged in Styrofoam.
Pointless theme, terrible clientele, capacity to induce self-hatred. Great chocolate-covered espresso beans.
Liz lives and writes in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.