Apr 30, 2015


In my travels a few weeks ago, I was at 4 airports, Hartsfield-Jackson in Atlanta, Georgia, La Guardia in New York, Austin -Bergstrom International in Austin, Texas, and Sky Harbor in Phoenix, Arizona. 

Leaving Austin on a 6:30am Southwest flight on a Monday morning I experienced and witnessed something I had not seen at any other airport before, SELF SERVICE COFFEE for $2.00.  

I was a bit surprised when I saw the set up. It was a kiosk with 8 or 9  industrial size coffee craft dispensers.  It was a miniature army of independent soldiers waiting to be called upon to dispense the much needed jolt of caffeine.  The self service sign was only on one side of the kiosk, I had to walk around to confirm what I thought the set up was for.  

I participated in this self-serve, self-regulated coffee shop and it was wonderful.

No lines, no waiting, there were several coffee selections, I had the FOG CUTTER roast. They had all the necessary accoutrements, milk selections, sugar packets, napkins, everything was there.  They had tall table tops around the kiosk where you could enjoy your coffee if you wanted to.  The Southwest gate I was departing from was right across from this coffee set up so I decided to hang out and observe people as they participated in this self-regulated Austin Java offering. I was surprised and amused. I wish I had recorded some video of the reactions. It was CANDID CAMERA interesting for sure. 

Several husband and wives traveling together walked up and most every time one would ask the other, is this coffee free, where do we pay, how do we pay, and always one person was sure that it was self-serve and the other had to walk around to see the sign and get confirmation that this really could be a set up with no one regulating and confirming the purchase. 

Some people got their coffee and as they walked around figured out they had to pay. Some walked around the entire kiosk to figure out what and how to pay before getting any their coffee, confirming the process and expectations of this setup, much like I did. 

Everytime and for everyone, at least the people I observed, there was a look in their eyes and/or gestures of questions, perhaps some doubt, could this really be ? All thinking the same thing, is this really self-serve ? Everyone thinking perhaps that a greater good and power in the universe is trusting that all customers of Austin Java are going to consume the wonderful coffee and pay.

For me the observations for the 15 or 20 minutes I was there, were interesting in many respects. First and foremost there is human nature, how as citizens of the universe, we can react and behave according to norm, to customs, according to our moral compass. And most of the time the collective peoples prevail and the right actions and decisions are motivated by the right reasons. Most of the time.  

I was surprised at how much this self serve concept surprised and confused people. It was an early morning mystery, an unusual treasure these coffee hunters had stumbled upon. For me the immediate reaction and realization was  how wonderful that it was NOT another long line at a Starbucks.  I was delighted that I could make my own decision, serve myself and not have to speak some venti latte language that I refuse to learn to order a coffee at Starbucks. I actually appreciated the poetic name of my coffee blend, FOG CUTTER.  

Self-regulation is an interesting, challenging concept. And certainly there are many flavors, self-regulation of the individual, what we do in our every day lives, vs. self-regulation of the public at large like the Java Austin example, self-regulation on the geopolitical landscape, and on and on. If you do a search on Google on the term, many different things come up. Lots of psychology information, lots of articles and books about children and learning and schools and addiction, governments, societies, on an on.  

My self-regulation experience with the coffee kiosk in Austin was positive. How wonderful that a simple cup of coffee on a busy, early Monday morning could be a catalyst for a wonderful confirmation that most people, most of the time, do what is good and what is right. 

And to that I say …. Hallelujah !