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Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Working in a Coffee House

ROGER DE COVERLEY reporting in. There’s no question that I get more writing done in coffee houses than ever takes place at home. What a shameful admission. But inevitable.

At home, I have surrounded myself with all manner of comfy distraction. There’s music – oh, there’s music. There are pets always eager to play. There are projects: house improvements, electronics maintenance, the endless organizing obsessive collectors like me set themselves. And there’s food, and I know how to cook it.

There’s food at coffeehouses, of course, but I’m less likely to punish myself with an excess when I’m on public display. A display more hopeful, I’m sure, than actual, but still. As a fat guy, I feel the collective scorn of my skinny neighbors when I tuck into that toothsome scone.

So I’m usually slurping a cup of coffee. A latte, if I feel like splurging. Fortunately, I’ve never developed a taste for the sweetened versions topped with whipped cream.

I found an extra-life battery for the machine on eBay, but there’s usually an outlet within reach. And WiFi makes it easy to do the research all writing requires.

The biggest drawback? Coffee house neighbors. I bring a profound level of misanthropy to the situation, but it’s still distressing to hear the way others carry on in public. Right now, for example, I’m a table away from a woman who’s had a cell phone jammed to her ear for several minutes, lecturing someone – a loved one, I fear – in arch, nasal tones about “life decisions.” She employs that condescending technique beloved of teachers and parents and Sean Hannity that features humiliating questions, like, “How would you feel if someone treated you that way?” and slippery-slope nonsense like, “If we let you do this, then everyone is going to want to do it.”

But here comes a break, in the person of a man she was waiting to meet. Their voices go much lower than the tone she employed on the phone, a phenomenon that makes in-public cell-phone use almost always annoying. I’ve asked people to pipe down; I might as well have asked them to sever an arm, such entitlement do they feel.

On the other side, a sports discussion ensues. Ah, the passion these two old men bring to their play-by-play reconstruction of some recent event. It’s safe – in this context, anyway – and provides immediate bonding. And it actually proves helpful to my endeavors, because it sucks so many clichés out of the air that I’m far less inclined to include one.

And then there are the beautiful women who choose to work around me. They sit alone or with friends, intent on a computer screen, twisted slightly in the chair so that their clothing stretches provocatively, and I’m left to dream of unlikely encounters in what would have to be another temporal dimension.

After which I remind myself that I’m using all of this as excuse after excuse to justify not working, and turn to my own computer and get a little more writing done. If it worked for Addison and Steele, it can keep it working for me.

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