Life as a coffeeshop vagabond

There are just a few types of people who frequent coffee shops from about 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. on a weekday. There are the mothers with small children. These women just seem to need to get out of the house, to get a break from their daily routine. The number who buy their kids sickeningly sweet treats is astounding. It’s a wonder there hasn’t been a massive increase in tooth decay since the advent of a Starbucks on every corner/in every strip mall.

There are the retired couples. These people probably come every day, about the same time, reading the newspaper, not saying a word to one another, just passing time. I suppose every once in a while they wonder why they retired, since this is all they can think of to do with their lives.

So far I haven’t seen any other writers — probably a function of where I am, in suburban Charlotte. If I was near a college campus, maybe, or downtown, maybe I’d see a writer or two. The few people surfing the Web around here seem to be businesspeople checking their e-mail.

Then there are the contractors. These are swarthy, darkly tanned men in polo shirts who seem surgically attached to their cell phones. They’re generally just sitting there reading a paper or doing the crossword, but every few minutes the phone will beep and they’ll assume the manner of someone who’s genuinely busy. In their calls, they’ll promise to do five or six things, but they’ll never write anything down. I suspect this contractor class is a result of the recent real estate bubble. These are probably the same guys who spent the years from 1998 to 2000 glued to their computer screens day-trading Iomega stocks. Now they’re just caught up in the Next Big Thing.

Speaking of cell phones, I’ve been noticing more and more of these around lately. Now not only do people have cell phones clipped to their belts, they wear them, constantly, in their ear. It’s a hands-free head set that looks like something out of a science fiction movie. When they talk, you don’t know whether they’re speaking on the phone or asking you a question.

I suspect it’s only a matter of time before these things really are surgically implanted in the body. Then it will be impossible to forget your cell phone, wherever you go. People will be able to call you 24 hours a day! The only problem will be when you arrive in the real Hell: you won’t be able to tell the difference from the world you just left.

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3 Responses to Life as a coffeeshop vagabond

  1. Scott says:


    Where I live, our cafes are filled with laptop users (I
    among them). I suspect the free WiFi has a lot to do with
    it, as when I glance at the screens more often than not
    people are screwing around online. I suspect that a goodly
    portion of them are undergrads procrastinating while
    writing term papers.

    There’s also a lot of people doing actual writing on these
    things (again, students from the local university, but more
    often grad students). I’d really like to know how many of
    the people I see with laptops are bonified writers who
    hack it out in a cafe day in and day out (as I attempt to do).

  2. dave says:

    There’s astonishingly little free wireless in Charlotte. Panera is about the only one. That’s actually good for me because it means that I can go to a coffee shop to escape the Internet and get some work done. But this past week has been trying, because though I like to escape the Net from time to time, 8 hours at a time is much too much.

    I’m shocked … shocked! that there aren’t more writers in Berkeley. Never having been there, I’d always imagined that it was the sort of place where you couldn’t walk three steps without tripping over one.

  3. Scott says:

    Oh I’m sure they’re here somewhere, they just don’t seem
    to be diligently working at cafes.

    The WiFi is sort of a mixed blessing. It’s definitely nice
    to be able to dip into e-mail or blog something quick
    while working in a cafe, but, yes, it is a mighty temptress
    as well.

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