Coffee Muggers and Public Masticators – Get Off the Sidewalk!

Move it, people!

How many times a day do I find myself muttering this under my breath on every sidewalk in New York City – or, for that matter, anywhere I go.

And they’re everywhere.

Dawdling. Talking. Hovering. Holding up my much-needed hurry to get to where I want to be.

Coffee muggers.

Literally and metaphorically. People carrying their mugs and effectively mugging you with their destructive behavior.

Clasping their cardboard vessels of coffee that will be too cold to drink when they get to wherever they want to be, they kidnap others’ much needed space with their invasion. And I’m sick of it.

Why DOES everyone have to carry a cardboard cup of coffee on the street?

It started with celebrities, for whom the obligatory carry-out coffee cup became a fashion statement in every paparazzi snap. Celebrities who, for example, like Aston Kutcher and Mila Kunis, could afford to buy a coffee shop – heck, they could afford to buy a coffee plantation – are regularly seen nursing their mugs like treasured Oscars.

In fact, are they incapable of walking along a sidewalk with stuffing their faces at all?

The trend has been exacerbated by TV shows, where characters seem incapable of boiling a kettle in the office kitchen that is just steps from their desks.

Take NCIS. Gibbs (Mark Harmon, who has now left the series) used to wander in every morning carrying a cardboard cup of coffee. Did he ever drink it? No. What did it achieve? Was it a display of power over his co-workers? A symbol of his manhood? ‘Hey, guys, look how tough I am, wielding my trophy at the crack of dawn while you minions have to make your own.’ Ooh, scary. Better not upset the boss who carries the scepter of steaming superiority.

There was a time when characters sat down to drink coffee. Friends was a whole series built around the ritual of coffee drinking in Central Perk – well, when they found a spare five minutes between banging the neighbors.

Likewise, Frasier. Frasier and brother Niles had most of their meaningful conversations in Café Nervosa over a cup or two, and the setting was the scene for many major dramas over the show’s 11-year run.

But the days of sitting down to enjoy a coffee are over. Heaven forbid that you should take two minutes to boil your own kettle and make your own coffee, when you can queue for 20 minutes in Starbucks and pay $5.95 for a Pumpkin Spice Frappuccino.

No. Take-out is the new black, and everyone is at it. On every street. On every sidewalk. Even cyclists, trying to balance a cup while jumping lights and mowing down pedestrians in the process.

I was brought up in a culture in the UK where it was considered the height of bad manners to eat on the street. I confess to snatching the occasional McDonald’s in public when I was a poor student, but there was still a huge level of guilt attached. It was a culture in which we sat down at the table as a family for every meal, washed up afterwards (this was long before the luxury of dishwashers) and never snacked.

To this day, I don’t snack. Two meals a day, and that’s my lot. When I was a kid, anything else was considered ‘greedy’ and something that would ‘spoil your appetite.’ How I used to long for a steaming sausage at the hot dog van when we trundled back to the car park after a long day at the beach. All my longing was in vain. ‘They’ll give you worms,’ my mother warned, hurrying us along.

The denial probably had more to do with my parents not being able to afford such luxuries rather than the worm factor, but it instilled in me a negativity about hand-held food in public places.

People nursing coffee cups on the street walk more slowly. They really do. They’re trying not to spill their cache, of course. Invariably, they are accompanied by a fellow walker, also trying desperately not to spill their treasure. So, they natter away, taking up double space on the sidewalk, their coffee decreasing in temperature by a degree with every step, and forcing everyone else to keep in time with their motion because they were too goddamn lazy to (a) either drink their coffee in the place in which it was purchased, or (b) boil their own goddamn kettle.

A TV producer recently complained to me about the cost of living in Los Angeles, saying he spent $100 a day – yes, a DAY – on coffee alone. I’ll bet he was one of those people wandering about on set 24/7, brandishing his cardboard – doubtless a Starbucks Venti – because he has a small penis, just as men driving large cars are over-compensating.

One of the great joys about Covid lockdown was that the streets were empty, devoid of coffee muggers. But since restrictions were lifted, they’re back with a vengeance – and they’re multiplying. Coffee shops are breeding, and carrying a cardboard cup of it on the street is the new status symbol.

You don’t see people carrying a bottle of beer on the street, or a glass of wine – heaven forbid, there are hostelries in which you can enjoy such things while sitting on a seat! Who knew! So, what is it with the coffee?

Honestly, it’s driving me nuts. Coffee shops make me angry. Coffee makes me angry. I’m now even angry with coffee drinkers indoors as well, when a bartender has to spend 20 minutes banging a machine with beans in it when all I want is a pint of Stella.

Maybe it’s just because I don’t like the smell of it – I’ve only once set foot in a Starbucks and it smelt like a crematorium. Maybe it’s because I see it as a complete waste of money. Or maybe it’s just because you coffee muggers are getting in my effing way.

So, just move it, people. Seriously. Just move it.