- Feeling free to act and dress however they want.
- Saving their money.
- Avoiding meaningless conversations.
- Avoiding competition for parking, seating or using the bathroom.
But if I want to spend a couple of hours reading a book or the news online, I often prefer going out to a café or a public space to sitting in my living room. And I’m all over this scene from Seinfeld:
GEORGE: Do you mind if I watch [this tape] here?
JERRY: What for?
GEORGE: Because if I watch it at my apartment I feel like I’m not doing anything. If I watch it here, I’m out of the house; I’m doing something.
Even when I do go out, however, I don’t necessarily want to talk to anyone. Again, Seinfeld:
ELAINE: Come on, let’s go do something. I don’t want to just sit around here.
ELAINE: Want to go get something to eat?
JERRY: Where do you want to go?
ELAINE: I don’t care, I’m not hungry.
JERRY: We could go to one of those cappuccino places. They let you just sit there.
ELAINE: What are we gonna do there? Talk?
JERRY: We can talk.
ELAINE: I’ll go if I don’t have to talk.
It seems, however, that despite my lack of a social impulse and my squeamishness with conversation, I do feel sympathy for the idea of a “third place.” Ray Oldenburg said that third places—”public places on neutral ground where people can gather and interact”—are “central to local democracy and community vitality.” They should be:
- Neutral—”in which we all feel at home and comfortable”
- Level—”by its nature, an inclusive place”
- Conversational—”the cardinal and sustaining activity of third places everywhere”
- Accessible—”one may go alone at almost any time of the day or evening with assurances that acquaintances will be there”
- Regular—”the right people are there to make it come alive, and they are the regulars”
- Unpretentious—”typically plain”
- Playful—”joy and acceptance reign over anxiety and alienation”
Johnny Dzubak said that a third place “puts you in touch with people who are unlike you, which is an important part of growth for every man.” But he also said, for a third place to be right for you, it needs to have “the kind of people you’d want to spend time with.” I don’t know if such a place exists for me; I don’t know if I can be comfortable in a place “where everybody knows your name.”
Is it just the sounds of a public place that I like, not the interaction? What is it about third places that I like when I don’t particularly like talking with people or getting to know them?