I work from home, but I’ve been displaced temporarily during a remodel, making me a nomadic worker, of sorts. What I’ve found is that there is a large tribe of us, some doing real work, some with actual office space that they are avoiding, and some who try to look busy while playing Words with Friends. The thing we all have in common is that we’re at Starbucks, jockeying for one of the lucky seats near an outlet.
This is the future. More and more people work wirelessly, but not everyone has a home office, and some people prefer to be surrounded by others, just not in a traditional office setting. Places like Starbucks, who offer free wifi, and in many stores, a plethora of electrical outlets, have become the new office.
Each visit, I buy a drink or a drink and a snack if I’m going to be there for a while and want to compensate Starbucks for the extra time. I try not stay more than three hours at a time, and I’ve gone to two different Starbucks in a day to ease my guilt of holding up a table.
My main Starbucks is huge and is well suited toward supporting worker bees. Build it and they will come has been true in this spot. Some days, like today, are relatively empty, but other days are full, with almost every seat taken.
I see confidential meetings, lots of job interviews, networking meetings, college students with textbooks, doctors on break (it’s across from a hospital) and a lot of people who I’d guess are unemployed, but trying to keep a schedule to their day. I’ve sat next to a man studying to be a Jehovah’s Witness, I’ve sat next to a man who always watches movies without earphones, and I’ve overheard countless phone calls. The worst was the man who unzipped his pants and directly adjusted himself twice before catching the eye of a Starbucks employee.
Recently four women took over a group of tables as they camped out for the day. They brought their own food, served up in nice bowls, and talked openly about the fact that they were refusing to go into the office because someone had lost his temper and gotten threatening the day before. I’ve seen someone bring in a very tiny rescue kitten, who started peeing, and the person first put the kitten on the table, then realizing that may be a bad idea, walked with the still peeing kitten to the station with napkins and straws and began wiping the kitten’s bottom with napkins. The woman never interrupted her conversation once while this was happening. I sat watching with my mouth agape, but this was nothing to the cat lady.
When our remodel is complete and I get my home office back, I’ll wonder about the other regulars at Starbucks and what they’re up to, but not enough to go back for a visit. By that time, my bank account will appreciate the break from Starbucks.
I keep promising to write a book called, “What I saw at Starbucks,” but I don’t know that the peeing kitten can be topped. Rather, I should hope the peeing kitten isn’t topped.