On Friday late afternoon I walked up the seven steep blocks of Queen Anne hill, after which I always feel justified in rewarding myself. The hour was about 5pm, and so I nipped into Queen Anne Ale House for happy hour. I get a $5 glass of house red and a $10 chicken broccoli quesadilla, and I’m a happy camper.
On my right at the bar were three guys, 50-ish I’d guess, drinking many beers and watching the Seattle Seahawks pre-season game. Loudly. On my immediate right, between me and the football fans, was a guy drinking beer and working on his computer. The guy to my immediate left, middle-aged like all the others, was drinking beer and reading a book, oblivious to the not insignificant level of noise all around.
The Ale House is not a family place, because there is no separation between the bar and the seating area, which means no minors can come in. Nor is it a trendy place for the young glitterati of Seattle to celebrate the end of the work week. The Ale House is a neighborhood place where, if you have a drink in front of you no matter how slowly you sip, you can sit and do your thing for a long time with other people around instead of being in the isolation of your own home.
In urban parlance such places are called “third spaces”, neither home nor work, where people can come to share something, like a football game or even just a convivial atmosphere. Getting in and out is easy, and you don’t have to belong. You don’t have to know anybody to become part of the group. You don’t have to make many visits before you become a regular, the bartender remembers what you’re likely to drink and as you sit down asks “the usual?”.
I’m a great fan of third spaces, and as a single person in my 70’s, they are a regular and much appreciated part of my life. Living in a thriving urban area helps, because there are a lot of them from which to choose. Are you a fan?