Remember the show Cheers? Every person had his own seat at the bar. Each of them drank the same drink every day. Norm walked in and everyone said in unison “Norm!” You knew these folks were in a place of comfort and camaraderie.
If you’ve read my blog for a while, you know I spend a lot of time writing in The Opium Den, also known as my local Starbucks. I gave it that nickname years ago when I realized I had to go there each day. I figured the cup manufacturers lined the cardboard cups with an addictive substance activated by hot liquid. But I gradually understood the real reason I needed to go there: it had become my third place.
Writer Ray Oldenburg described ‘the third place’ in his book The Great Good Place. It can take many forms, but it’s always a place separate from home (the first place) and work (the second place) and it’s always welcoming and comfortable. Many of the people you find there are ‘regulars’, like Norm on Cheers.
I didn’t always have a third place. I’d never even walked into a Starbucks until eleven years ago, when I joined Match.com after my divorce and needed a safe, neutral place to meet the five gazillion gentlemen I got to know before meeting John. I’d bring my writing to the Starbucks in my Northern Virginia neighborhood while waiting for a guy to show up, and soon I was looking forward to the writing more than the guy (until John, of course!). I started working there both morning and evening, making connections with other writers (You can so easily identify other writers. They type, then stare into space, then type some more), producing tons of pages and eating way too many pastries. When I moved to North Carolina six years ago, one of the first things I did was check out the location of the Opium Dens. Here I am in this 2006 photograph with my 2006 curly hair, happily ensconced in what is STILL my favorite chair. (One of the ‘regulars’ came in the other day and asked if I’d even moved from the chair since the morning before).
I adore my third place for what it doesn’t have–laundry, piles of stuff to sort through, bills to pay, dogs to groom, floors to vacuum. And I love it for what it does have–comfy chairs, soft (usually) music, friends to chat with, and of course, lots of coffee in those opiate lined coffee cups.
Do you have a third place? Is it a coffee shop? A bookstore? A gallery? A bar? Maybe a church? What draws and keeps you there?