Sunday, March 25, 2012

The People of Espresso Royale

     A convenient study spot of UMich students, the Espresso Royale café on State Street likes to boast and take seemingly immense satisfaction in their alternative, hipster-ish atmosphere. Unfortunately, their pride and annoying air of unconventionalism is wrongly assigned. Espresso is a franchise, concentrated in Midwestern locations. The eager students who innocently frequent here assume it's an Ann Arbor institution. Nope, not the case. Yet even with all my criticisms, you will still find me here semi-frequently. Crack it up to the convenient location - across the street from campus and two blocks from my dorm. And the fact that it's neither Starbucks or the UgLi, the other more popular and viable study options. Starbucks is sometimes fine, however usually I don't feel up to sitting in and among such pretension that is the chain and the ridiculously long and specific drink dessert names ordered by your typical high-pitched sorority girls, hauty looking business men, or just plain obnoxious bros. The UgLi (Sharpiro Undergraduate Library) is this with an added obnoxious factor of at least 100, the suffocating academic atmosphere, and the subtraction of comfortable seating. It's a rarity that I willingly study or choose to spend time there.
This picture doesn't accurately display the UgLi's ugliness.

     But Espresso can be surprisingly unique, most notably with the customers. I've had a questionably high amount of awkward run-ins and/or struck up conversations from the people around me. Every time I enter, there's always a potential to add another to the list. The majority of the customers are average students or 'normal' people, the minority of odd people present an unexpectedly large influence on the place. Right now as I survey the café there's a dude full on asleep in a lounge chair to my right. A surely genius professor with gray hair is working away with a bright fuschia laptop case. There's a group of guys aged in the mid-thirties standing around a table talking.
     Today, a moderately good-looking dude walks past my comfy chair, deliberately turns around while staring at me and proceeds to sit at the empty table beside me, in the seat nearest me. Five minutes later he tries his hand at a conversation/pick-up by commenting on the new (and by new, I mean at least since January) furniture arrangement and how he likes it because I'm here. I'm working (after a long weekend of procrastination) and so is everyone else around. I smile and nod uncomfortably and turn away back to my computer hoping to send him a hint. He does and then offers up "As long as I have a plug, I'm happy". An hour and a half later, he still hasn't plugged in his laptop. Even the normal looking people here can surprise ya. Update: now a girl has come up to him and they are conversing. She asks if he's David and tells him that he talked to her 'over there' yesterday about Jazz. He says "Right, uh, tell me your name again?" ... 
     In previous Espresso encounters, the infamous T. Kacey Brennan, one of the Ann Arbor staple hobos, has sat right next to me and my friend and gets right into telling us multiple times "I'm a famous comic book writer, Google me, you'll see", holding up a newspaper clipping. After unsuccessful attempts to brush him off with nervous nods and quick smiles with eyes glued to our laptops, my friend offers up a "Cool, I'll have to do that sometime..." as he obviously waits for us to google him that very instant and be impressed. We left soon after.
     One time an old guy with a temple sat by me and proceeded to hold a heated phone conversation about Iraq and government conspiracies and what he's doing about it. Many a glare was shot his way by the rest of the café customers, due to his pompous self-righteous air and extremely loud and graceless voice. I remember opening the photobooth app on my computer to record his amazing and hysterical conversation.
     I am cursed and/or blessed with an indescribable, alluring air that attracts weird guys to sit near me in coffee shops. It happens just too often to be coincidence. Nevertheless, if you delight in observing awkward exchanges or odd people, Espresso Royale on State is your place. It may not be as alternative or awesome as the trust-fund college student, eager to jump on the 'hipster-trend' thinks of it; the drinks may not be anything special; and it's not an original institution opposing the starbucks-on-every-corner mentality that the company would like you to believe. But man, there are some jems of experience you can find there if you're lucky.

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