For the purposes of this assignment, I went to the local Starbucks that lies nearly a quarter mile from my house. I sat down for two hours with my laptop and observed the people and their interactions there on Thursday, and the other two hours on Sunday. The establishment is the layout of a typical Starbuck's: there are two entrances, one on the front and one on the side, with glass windows leaving the entire interior open to the public. On the left side of the front entrance, there is the counter, where there is the register, the baristas, the coffee making equipment and pastries, salads and food you can also purchase. On the opposite wall are the refillable mugs and coffee bags that you can purchase independently.
While I was there, the coffee shop was moderately populated. For the most part, I saw many young Caucasian adults, both male and female, in their early to late 20s going there to just write and surf the Internet on their laptop. They always invariably came alone, but were courteous to each other. For the most part, though, they respected each other's space and kept to themselves; they were also very courteous to the barista, who was friendly and smiled at each customer to the extent that they were willing. One unique instance was an African-American couple (mid 30s) who came in with their baby, who was approximately 6-7 months of age, in a stroller. Unlike the distant college-aged adults who mostly populated the Starbucks, they were friendly, chatty, talkative and conversational with the barista. No one was ever hostile in the Starbucks, and everyone treated each other with either indifference or friendliness. On Sunday, a pair of middle-aged businessmen, dressed in suits, came in and discussed business-related issues (I believe it was an informal interview of some kind) over coffee; their voices were restrained, but hushed, so as not to disturb other people.
The barista herself was incredibly hardworking; when she was not serving a customer, she was wiping down counters, busing tables, making coffee and restocking the pastries and salads as need be. She made great strides to never appear idle or not busy; the only times she was not working or doing something related to her duties were the occasional conversations she had with the baker in the kitchen, which were short and did not last longer than five minutes. Customers were treated by the baristas with courtesy and a smile, and the customers mostly smiled and engaged right back - the others were simply cursory about their interactions with the workers. These were typically the individuals who just sat in front of their laptops and didn't converse with people. I thought I would actually get some unexpected or abrasive customers, seeing as a coffee shop is a popular place with complicated orders that short-tempered people might take umbrage to if they were wrong. However, everyone I saw was either indifferent or courteous to the worker and to each other.
Agar, M. The Professional Stranger: An Informal Introduction to Ethnography. Academic Press,