Knocking On Barnes & Noble’s Door

The glass-and-chrome façade of the Juilliard School.
The glass-and-chrome façade of the Juilliard School.

When you’ve seen someone in only one kind of clothing, you begin to believe not only that that’s what they’ve always worn, but you also can’t picture them wearing anything else. So it is with places.

I’ve never been to a Barnes & Noble café that, lamentably, had one empty table.

In some locations in the city, those near schools, the bookstore coffee shop has morphed from being a hip spot for browsing a book while sipping a latte to being a crowded, but convenient place to study test prep books or a hangout to faff—without requiring patrons to buy even so much as bottle of Fiji water. (It’s because even a few ounces of water costs close to $2.)

So, imagine my colossal surprise on finding the immense Barnes & Noble outlet opposite the Julliard School and the Lincoln Center, locked, when I arrived there at 8:30 a.m.

For a moment, I stood outside the glass façade, wondering if I’d be the first customer to walk in when the doors opened. Giddy with that thought in my head, I walked over to a nearby island with iron chairs and tables, where pedestrians can sit and enjoy the city’s soaring skyscrapers, their silvery windows glinting in the fresh, golden sunlight of the day.

At 8:55 a.m., I was back at the entrance. By then, a small flock of people had converged. Like a child eager to lay her hands on a new toy, I was excited at the prospect of entering the customer-free store. At 9:00 a.m., on the dot, the gates were drawn.

I was the No. 3 person to saunter into an environment that smelled new, clean, and quiet. I wasted no time in taking the elevator to the top level, to the Starbucks. There, I had to give myself a soft knock to convince myself that I could indeed, sit anywhere I pleased.

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