Cafe Promised Land: The Long Daily Search for a Self-Employed Workplace

My current nest at Top Pot Doughnuts

The perfect workplace may not exist, but I still need my basic needs met as a self-employed laptop nomad. I am taking a break from my regularly scheduled work day to bring you this (albeit snobby, frivolous, and indulgent) gripe about the struggles of an office-less freelancer.

Let me begin with the caveat that I LOVE being a freelancer. I love being able to work from home. I love making my own hours. I love not needing to prove that I’m a hard worker by sitting at a desk in a sea of cubicles for the entire day.


Sometimes I can’t work from home. There’s something about my living room during the day that does not inspire motivation. It seems mostly to be a day-time malady. At night I can work for hours on end at my desk. Maybe it’s the 8-year-old ballerina who lives above us. No, she’s always there running around, even at night. Maybe it’s the lighting. In any event, some days, it’s just not happening, and I want a little life around me as I try to pour a glass of insta-creative. Here is a list of common issues one faces when “working out.” I believe I checked off all of these during the course of my day:

1. …and they wandered the wilderness for forty years.  One would think that in a city that has more coffee houses than all other cities combined, it would be an easy task strolling into a caffeine shack and finding a table. No. It is not. Because apparently everyone else in Seattle is also a freelancer or student. Today I almost had the mind to walk up to people and poll them about what they do. Also, it seems everyone got up at 0:00AM to claim their Promised Land. It was probably easier finding a place to sit at Ellis Island.

2. Outlet Hell: Say you do find a table. Often times than not, the contractors who designed the coffee house you’re sitting in didn’t really think about the necessity of OUTLETS. My MacBook Pro actually lasts a few hours unplugged, but not an entire work day. Even if there are outlets, you might be sitting next to “that guy” who has his laptop, cell phone, iPod, and nostril hair trimmer all plugged into the power strip that’s meant to be shared by the entire back corner of the cafe. This leads me to my next grievance…

3. Cafe Real Estate Moguls: I am not referring to those developers who skimped on the outlets; I am talking about those individuals that sit at a table meant for six and begin building an empire of unusable seating. She sits in one chair, with her feet up on another, her purse and coat on a third, her open gym bag full of sweaty Lulu Lemon fabric flopped onto the forth. She’s got her laptop open, but she’s spent the last 15 minutes on her iPhone while a crinkled copy of US Weekly lies next to a two-hour-old cappuccino and a half-eaten 8 grain roll. Ooo! Another segue!

4. Lifestyles of the Loud and Obnoxious: OK, I know I’m not sitting in a library, but it’s also not Saturday night at the club. There’s no need to talk over the each other like there’s a live band. Then there are people on their cell phones shouting personal information into them. They are phones. If you speak normally, people will hear you on the other side. I’m not sure which scenario is worse really, having an entire conversation that I don’t want to hear about shoved in my ears, or just HALF of an entire conversation that I don’t want to hear about shoved in my ears. “OH MY GOD NO WAY!?…REALLY?…UHUH…OMG I WAS TOTALLY CONSTIPATED TOO!!!”

5. Your Mind Now Belongs to DJ Barista: I used to be a barista. It’s hard work. You’re on your feet all day, covered in smelly milk, dealing with stupid customers who treat you like you’re a vending machine. You deserve to be able to play your own music in the cafe. That being said, I believe there is a courteous volume to bear in mind. Maybe I don’t want to go head-banging at an 80s punk show, or take a meditative journey down the Ganges, or sigh while listening to a sad, sad, sad lady sing her lament for the dying trees. It’s not that I don’t respect other people’s music (because people’s musical preference is sacred), but that really affects my attention span. If I put on my headphones, I shouldn’t be able to hear the cafe music combine with mine.

6. Why-Fi. As in “WHY bother having internet available if it SUCKS!?!?” Some places have great instant connectivity, while others make you sign up through some bootleg 3rd party internet portal that is slower than the evolution of mankind. In the amount of time it takes some connections to load a page, I could have walked to Office Depot, stolen a new modem, and served 2 years in a state penitentiary that has BETTER SERVICE!

7. Mind Over Bladder. You’ve finally found your spot. The laptop is plugged in. The coffee (in my case tea) is to your liking. The noise level is tolerable. Your new foe? Your bladder. It’s screaming at you like an impatient newborn at feeding time. What the hell are you supposed to do now? Leave all your stuff on the table with a “FREE!” sign, or pack up your stuff and lose your coveted space? I usually politely ask the person next to me to keep an eye out on my stuff. Is this the smartest course of action? Meh. I guess I’m hoping that they will sympathise with me. We office-less freelancers have to look out for each other.

Sigh. That feels better. Thank you for letting me get that off my chest. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go up to the counter, get a donut, and go back to work 😀


4 thoughts on “Cafe Promised Land: The Long Daily Search for a Self-Employed Workplace

  1. very entertaining and interesting to one who never has to wait for coffee and/or wifi. when you live in the wilds of upstate NY you can pretty much find a seat anywhere. Keep up the funnies and the good work.

  2. Mike… I’m glad you got it all off your chest… because this post is hysterical! May you always have a quiet, connected seat near a rest room–and may the Signal Force be with you.

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