Monday, November 3, 2008

The Third Place

Ray Oldenburg, in his book The Great Good Place, notes that our subdivision nation has suppressed one of the most necessary public goods: The Third Place. Instead of being cooped up in a house and watching TV, people could walk down to the local pub or coffee house for a daily taste of informal public life. This public sphere has been the grassroots shaper of our nation, hosting productive conversations between people from extremely different backgrounds.

I stumbled upon this book in attempt to find more information about my yearning for another place beside work and home. I often called the church my third place, but finding employment in a church kept my place count at two.

Since moving to Danville, I was subconsciously looking for another place, and interestingly enough, began working at The Hub Coffee Shop and Cafe (which is located directly across from the big yellow building in the picture above). I found my third place.

I left the Hub in August, and after a busy couple of months at work, found the urge to revisit the Hub, this time as a patron rather than employee. I hope to be a regular someday.

After visiting for a few consecutive days, I was delighted by the many interactions I had with different people. Having some conversations that were more in depth than others, I found the Hub to be a place all about connections. Not those connections you maintain through your alma mater to help find a job, nor the ones that could be some sort of use to you in the future; these connections of the informal public life serve to enrich our daily lives and awaken a solidarity among a small town.

(On my walk from the Hub to work one morning, I bumped into an acquaintance whose phone number I had shamefully lost, and who I hadn't spoken to for weeks. Good thing I found my third place.)

In establishing my third place, I think it important to understand the background and importance of coffee shops in America. Over the next several days I will be reading through Oldenburg and making observations at the Hub.


Gruntled said...

I think coffee houses are the best kind of third place. They are better for hanging out that non-food places, and better for conversation than bars.

Nate said...

Plus, as you once told me Dr. Weston, the next morning, you actually remember the conversation.