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No Selfies at Celfry’s!

Posted on Aug 30, 2015

When a girlfriend invited me out for coffee at Celfry Cafe on Broadway, I jumped at the chance to try a new place (especially kid-free, so I could truly take in the ambience of it!) I had never heard of it, but then, I don’t get out much.

It was a bit hard to find, as the signage wasn’t at street level – it was on the second floor, despite the street-level location. Huh. As I reached for the handle to pull open the door, the strategically-placed, bright sign at eye-level showed a circle containing an old flip-phone… with a line through it. Odd.

The entranceway was a long corridor, but it was well-lit and wide, so it didn’t make me claustrophobic. At the end of the hall was a hostess podium. No host/ess was there, only a sign in a frame placed upon the podium. It read:

Welcome to Celfry Cafe!

Please, no Selfies at Celfry’s!

Celfry = Cell Free

We ask that you sign the agreement* before you order.

Enter and enjoy a Celfry experience!

*Management reserves the right to refuse service if you do not sign the agreement.


Er… okay…

I peeked around the corner. It was like 1983. There were framed movie posters on the walls (most notably Star Wars and ET), and Flashdance music filled the air. It was bright inside because the back was all windows – it looked like it opened up onto a back-lane terrace, but today it was closed.

There was a long table down the middle of the cafe where a few people sat – none of them together or across from each other, but each a few seats away from one another. One was reading a newspaper (!), and a few seats down, another read a book.

The rest of the place had tables, but only half of them were real tables – the other half were video game tables. One couple were enthusiastically jamming buttons and goading each other, perhaps playing Pac Man but I thought that was a one person game? There was one person sitting alone and it looked like they were playing Tetris – I guess you could choose if you wanted 1 Player or 2 Player games? I don’t remember, it’s been decades since I sat at one of these tables!

Regular 4 person tables made up the rest, but each of the tables were filled with people playing board games. Two people at one table played Crib, and I saw 4 people at another table playing Scrabble. I eyed them with envy – I LOVE Scrabble!!!

I sat down at the long table (as it seemed this was the place to sit if you were alone) but I chose a seat near the Scrabble players so I could eavesdrop. While I waited for my friend, I took note of a table of 4 card players – they were playing Euchre! Another favourite game of mine, but SO hard to find players (it’s a game from back East that few here are familiar with). Oh man, I love this place. More than that, I love the clientele

Shortly after I sat down, a server stopped at the table. I was startled, I thought this was a self-serve type of cafe where I went up and chose what I wanted from the glass case and ordered my drink from the counter. She pulled out what looked like a notepad for taking orders, and put it down on the table in front of me. Then she pulled out a pen and offered it to me.

I must’ve looked at her quizically because she smiled knowingly and launched into a well-rehearsed spiel about how this is a cell-free zone and to please turn off my cell phone or if I wanted, she could put my phone away for me while I was here in case I was tempted to pull it out. She warned that even if I tried to use it, there was no cell service here (by accident or design, I wasn’t sure) and it wouldn’t work anyway. She asked me to sign the “agreement” to promise that I wouldn’t even use my cell for games, and by signing I agreed that she could confiscate my phone if I pulled it out.

After the message sank in, I nodded, pulled out my phone and turned it off. I put it away in my purse, signed the paper, and handed the pen back to her. I shrugged, smiled, and after a flash of anxiety when I realized I was disconnected, my shoulders relaxed. Huh. What a strange feeling…

While I waited for my friend for the 5 minutes it took her to show up, I was oddly aware of the people around me. I noticed what they were wearing, what they were doing, where they were sitting, what they were saying. I was hyper-sensitive. How. Uncomfortable.

But only for a minute. Then I began to enjoy it. I smiled to myself as I overheard someone lay down a Jack at the Euchre table and all the players erupted. I listened to them counting up the points on the Scrabble table when someone laid down all their tiles (50 bonus points!) I observed the approximate age of these strangers, which ranged from early 20’s (Pac Man) to mid 40’s (crib). The staff were somewhere between late 20’s and mid 30’s, and probably not the owners (who must’ve been children of the 80s!)

When my friend showed up, we went to the counter and took our treats to a Pac Man table. I asked her “have you been here before?” and she said “Yes, I come here all the time! It’s where I come to unwind. I can’t unwind at home because I can’t NOT use the internet – I have no self control.” I told her that I didn’t realize that Celfry meant “Cell Free”. She said “Oh? I always call it Celfry’s and thought it meant “Cell Freeze”.” We laughed heartily – same diff, they both implied the absence of technology. And it was incredible!

It was so incredible that I promised my friend I wouldn’t tell you where it is. It’s like a magical, secret world, and she’s worried that if I tell people, it’ll get too busy and she won’t get a table! Ironic, isn’t it? Using technology to write a post and send people to a technology-free place. Haha!