This paper presents an ethnographic account of a coffee cafe in the University of Sydney. The cafe which is a small stall by the side of a busy walk way provides food and drink to customers who want to sit down to enjoy their beverage as well as to those looking for a quick cup of coffee. The style of the cafe was fairly laid back with customers queuing around the coffee cart, waiters talking loudly and the cashier taking orders from anyone and everyone. An abundance of natural daylight shone into the cafe from the glass windows at the side making the scene very lively and comfortable.
The cafe consisted of a cashier, who would take orders and collect the money and two other baristas. All three employees were of Asian descent and female in their mid to late twenties. The cashier whose name was Jean stood out to me the most as she was loud and had a rebellious nature about her. She had long dyed hair as well as piercings on her face and ears. I also noticed that Jean almost always prevented a customer from catching her eye so that she would not have to take their order. As Goffman (1963) suggests, ‘mutual glances ordinarily must be withheld if an encounter is to be avoided, for eye contact opens up for face engagement.’   Perhaps Jean was hoping that by avoiding the glances of customers she would have less work to do. As a result many of the customers had to stand in front of her and open the encounter with a verbal greeting in order to catch her attention.
Another barista, Emily had caught my attention after an encounter with a midget who was trying to place an order. I could see that she was clearly disturbed by the customer’s appearance yet she tried hard not to stare so as to not offend him. As Goffman (1963) argues, civil inattention consists of one giving enough attention to another, while at the next moment withdrawing one’s attention from him so as to express that he does not constitute a target of special curiosity. I could clearly see that Emily was...