3) Third Cup
You know, I never understood the name “Second Cup”. Well, to be clear, I never understood why we needed so many different coffee chains in the first place (Starbucks, Java U, Café Dépôt, Café Presse, Second Cup, Tim Hortons, Art Java, Dunkins Donuts plus the 50,000 independent coffee shops listed here http://www.urbanspoon.com/f/67/6616/Montreal/Coffee-Tea-Restaurants?page=3 – seriously, how many fucking coffee shops do we need? Is coffee really that popular? Holy shit!), but I understood the name of that chain even less. Second Cup… As in, have a second cup of coffee? Or do they mean that their coffee is the “second” best cup? What kind of marketing scheme is this? Can you imagine if McDonald’s was called “Second Burger”? This makes no sense. I wonder if I could start a chain called “Third Cup” or, why not, “First Cup”. Hell, if I get rich one day, I’m definitely starting a coffee chain called “First Cup” and opening a store in front of every Second Cup in the world.
In all cases, of all the coffee shops in Montreal, it turns out two out of three 24/7 coffee shops downtown are Second Cup, so I don’t suppose I can demonize them too much. I mean, it’s not like I want to go write at a Tim Hortons. Over time, Third Cup became my go-to place, but not by choice. This leads us to the existential question: do we ever do anything by choice? Never mind that, let’s go back to Third Cup; located close to Tim Hortons (but far enough so that the aura of mediocrity emanating from the Tim Hortons can’t contaminate your thought process), it is by far the largest place; unfortunately, like every good thing in life, it is scourged by several major flaws.
The second choice you’ll have to make after choosing place to write is to choose a section to write in. As if the place was magical (there are three 24/7 coffee shops close to me, or at least I managed to find 3, these places don’t exactly advertise a lot for some reason), the Third Cup is separated into Three distinct zones, all of them with advantages and disadvantages; choosing a section, like choosing whether to buy an Apple product or an inferior one, is a major and difficult choice with dramatic consequences. However, in other ways, it also represents a delicate form of art in itself which, one day, will surpass cinema and video games.
The Concert Zone
The first part consists of the entrance to the restaurant, the counter to order, the bathroom (a kind of closet that’s always locked with a toilet in the middle) and around six tables, plus a few sofas and some kind of useless fake fireplace. The chairs are comfortable and there usually is enough room to work. In fact, it would be utter perfection were it not for one simple thing: the music. The fucking music… It sucks, it sucks and it fucking sucks! Imagine the crappiest, shittiest and trashiest Latino music ever recorded and imagine sometimes ten times worst: that’s what it sounds like, and it never fucking stops, and it’s fucking loud as hell, and by that I mean iPod-on-max-volume-won’t-cover-it loud. In fact, it’s absolutely impossible to block it even with the best earplugs ever designed. Even Bose hasn’t figured a way to block this bullshit. No matter what you do, you will always hear the trashy junk lyrics; they invade your head faster than Germany invaded Poland in World War 2, annihilating your every thought and obliterating every chance of ever writing anything decent (if you don’t believe me, I wrote that last sentence while sitting in that section, under the influence of this garbage. Driving after listening to this music is technically a DUI). Seriously, I’d rather sit on that Tim Hortons seat for ten hours than listen to this garbage for five minutes.
I seriously don’t get the point of it. If you need to yell just to tell your order and then repeat your order three times, or if you need to wait for a break in the song (there are very few of them, believe me), then there is a problem. Why isn’t the restaurant doing something about it? Is that like part of the renown of the restaurant? Is the place famous for its “rhythmical, modern and new age” (which is another way to say “repetitive, redundant and fucking stupid”) music? The objective of this section, clearly, is to get you to leave as fast as possible, and it works.
Sometimes, rarely, God descends from heaven and stops the music for around fifteen minutes. When this happens, I have the most inspiring ideas ever thought by mankind. Miracles do happen; in fact, the plans for the first shuttle to land on the moon were designed in this section during a momentary lull. Still, attempting to write in the Concert Zone is tantamount to suicide.
The second part, which does look like an inside courtyard, is a large, open place with high ceilings, big tables and, thank God, no music. Over time, it became by far my favorite and go-to place. Large and open, it is often used by students and other people who want to get stuff done and not just waste their lives until they are too old to do anything. People talk, but they rarely yell and when they do, it’s never for long. The place is calm, quiet and well-lit; it is quite easy to concentrate and by far where I spend most of my time writing. It is, dare I say, quite pleasant. Sadly, writing in the courtyard does not come without risks; as we will see in the next section, it is often ruined by hobos, all of them of different annoyingness level, and all of them with their particularity.
The Courtyard is connected to the Concert Zone by a small door and leads to the final section of the place, called the Call Center, and also to a corridor that leads… absolutely nowhere. I don’t get it. My theory is that they built the building in several phases and simply forgot about it. By the time they realized their mistake, an architect somewhere must have thought: “Meh, no one will ever notice it”. Seriously, this corridor leads nowhere. I mean, it leads to a wall. Or is it a secret passage somewhere? Is this Bowser’s Castle?
Anyway, time to go to the final second of the Third Cup, the Call Center.
The Call Center
If you’re lucky enough to find it empty, it is by far the best place to write in the world, but as soon as a single person is in it, it becomes absolutely infernal. In fact, an axiom of life states that as soon as another person enters it, you can be sure as hell that person will yell for seven fucking hours straight minimum, usually in a language that nobody can understand (“MA-LA-YA-SA-TA!”) again, again and again. Typically, these people bring their laptops, yelling over Skype with relatives in countries you didn’t know existed. These people yell all night long and they never, ever stop. During peak hour, there can be as many as eight of those morons yelling at their laptops all at once. Surprisingly enough, they don’t seem to get bothered by the clacking of others, a perfect allegory of the harmony to be found in chaos.
As soon as another person enters, no matter who it is, it becomes absolutely impossible to write. The low ceiling and terrible architecture of the Call Center create an unbearable echo that will immediately overwhelm you; your only defense would be to open your laptop and call someone in Turkmenistan and yell in return, but you want to write, not to prattle for hours about your six-year-old sister being forced in a marriage with your great uncle. Thankfully, because of some magical property, you don’t hear any yelling as soon as you step out in the Courtyard, even though the place is quite open. My leading theory is that this place is magical.
Given all that, under normal and predictable circumstances, the Courtyard is the only place in the entire town of Montreal, if not in the entire province of Québec, where you can reasonably expect to maybe write something. Sadly – I did mention picking a section was a tough choice, didn’t I – even the Courtyard is often ruined by one of this world’s biggest nuisance: homeless people.
Every single night without exception, they rush to the place as if it was the last penny they needed to buy their beer in a perfect tableau of the inequalities engendered by capitalism. Now, not every homeless person is annoying, and then again, some are annoying on different levels, and some of them can be avoided entirely. Due of their complex life stories and elaborated pasts, they all deserve an introduction.
So without further ado (or, should I say, more than ten pages later), here is the list of the Top Ten Most Annoying Hobos (there are more than ten, but the others come more rarely or represent a lesser problem) I have the misfortune to share my writing sessions with. In order to truly understand the difficulty of modern writing, I have included everything there is to know about them (some of those things were learned against my will, believe me), some ways to cope with their annoyingness and, finally, for your total comprehension of the complex and vast subject of social poverty, some alternative, non-homeless theories of my making explaining their lives and stories. Good reading.