If there’s one thing you can guarantee about university toilets, it’s that more often than not there will be a poster stuck on the back of the cubicle door. (Bear with me; I promise this is going somewhere). Usually the posters have titles like ‘Housemate Wanted!’ and advertise vacant rooms in six bedroom houses of students who profess to ‘enjoying nights out but also nights in’. I’m oddly grateful for something to peruse when in public toilets – regardless of how banal it is – but that’s probably just the compulsive reader in me. Whilst in a loo in a café in Oxford last year, however, I came across a poster that genuinely excited me.
The poster I’d seen explained that the café ran a suspended coffee scheme. I was vaguely aware of the concept as something that happened in France, but had never encountered it in England before. What’s a suspended coffee? This video sums it all up nicely.
Its sheer simplicity aside, two aspects of suspended coffees appeal to me. Firstly, I love that it’s a way of helping somebody who might live down the road from you. A person you could have walked past in the Tesco Express last week. Suspended coffees must generate a strong sense of belonging to a community, both for those donating coffees and those receiving them. I also like the anonymity of suspended coffee. Bar the people in the queue behind you, nobody really knows if you’ve bought an extra drink and nobody really knows if you’ve claimed one. Spending a few pounds on a stranger you’re never likely to meet has got to be altruism in its purest form.