Saturday, May 14, 2005

Coffee date... with a laptop 

You see them in all the coffee houses in Seattle, folks sitting alone at small tables with their size/ caffeination/ milkfat(or soy)/ flavor of choice coffee drinks... and their laptops. On occasion you'll find them in pairs, sharing that small table; they have eyes only for the LCD displays nestled cozily back to back. Sometimes they outnumber the people *gasp* talking to one another.

I've never understood this phenomenon. Why choose a public place to use your computer? What is the appeal of working in a place in which other people are chatting, laughing, coming and going... having a social life?

Today, for the first time, I was one of those folks, and now I understand.

I'd let most of the week pass without starting the writing assignment that is due when my memoir class meets on Tuesday. Ten to fifteen pages, double spaced, to be critiqued by my teacher and all of my classmates. Every time that I sat down to write, I became distracted. The mountains (perhaps I exaggerate) of clutter in my office taunted me. A cat twined through my legs, purring, or poked a couple of too-sharp claws (doesn't anyone ever clip them? oh, right, my job...) into my thigh, while complaining loudly of neglect. And the internets, oh, the internets, sweetly calling to me through our broadband connection, their siren song luring me from one blog, one website, to another, then another.

Finally, last night, I was desperate. I need to get out of the house, I told Paul, away from all these distractions, so I can focus on writing. I asked to borrow his Mac laptop. Of course, I know that wireless internet connections are available in every self-respecting coffee house in this city. I don't know how to connect Paul's iBook to a wireless network, and I asked him not to show me.

This afternoon, I took the laptop to my favorite neighborhood coffee place. I scored the last table in the front window, overlooking the street. I bought a coffee drink (tall lowfat cafe con leche) and a macaroon. After a few minutes of settling in, I started writing. The regular low buzz of music and conversation was a comfortable background, not nearly as distracting as I'd always imagined it would be. None of it was directed at me, and while I occasionally found myself paying attention to a dog outside the window or a ringing cell phone, I also found that I could easily refocus on writing. Three hours and 4 1/2 pages later, I packed up the computer and came home.

I may have to get my own laptop. And don't be surprised if you see me becoming a regular at one of those small coffee house tables. I'll probably notice (if briefly) that you're there, but don't expect me to talk.

I feel so twenty-first century.