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I WRITE IN COFFEE SHOPS A LOT.


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Tools for Writing in Public: the iPad and Wireless Keyboard

ipad and keyboard3Most often when I write in coffee shops, I use my iPad and a wireless keyboard. I know a lot of people who get special cases for this, that make the iPad look a lot like a laptop. I don’t, because for me the absolute best possible way to type is with the screen on a table and the keyboard in my lap. Most tables are a little bit too high for me, and my shoulders start to ache after a while if I try to reach up to one to type. Of course I still use my laptop often, with it on a table, but usually that’s when I’m editing and there’s as much reading and highlighting as there is typing. If I’m going to sit and type 5000 words straight, I’m much, MUCH happier with my keyboard in my lap. Also, I tend to change the angle of the keyboard depending on the lighting conditions where I’m sitting. My case lets me set it so sometimes it’s almost flat, sometimes it’s standing on its side, and sometimes it’s standing on its end. The combo cases are a lot more restrictive.

Pros:

  1. Keyboard runs on double-A batteries; I always carry a spare set in my keyboard case and never have to worry about running out of power. In my experience, at least, iPads take forever to run out if all you’re doing is typing. I have more than once spent nine hours typing nonstop and still been at 30% power.
  2. Super light. The keyboard weighs nothing and the iPad weighs next to nothing (as long as you don’t get a super-heavy case for it. Why? Why would anyone do this?).
  3. If you’re somewhere where you don’t feel like hauling out the keyboard, you can leave it in your bag and write on your iPad with your thumbs.
  4. Easy to throw into your bag when you get up to use the bathroom. Unlike the laptop, which is a whole thing.
  5. When you hook up your keyboard via bluetooth, you get to see the names of the bluetooth-enabled devices around you, and they’re often adorable.


Cons:

  1. If you forget to disconnect the bluetooth before packing everything up, you’ll knock your keyboard in such a way that iPad’s volume will be turned all the way up, and then you’ll knock it again and music will start playing. Or an audiobook, which is somehow even more disconcerting. The best is when this happens but you’re listening to your ipod with headphones and have no idea why people are looking at you funny.
  2. The fact that it’s segmented means it’s very difficult, maybe even impossible depending on the size of your lap, to use without a table. So if the only chairs at Starbucks are the big comfy easy chairs, you’re kind of out of luck.
  3. Turning on the bluetooth takes a minute. It’s not a huge thing, but it can be annoying. It’s incredibly annoying for me, because somehow I banged the keyboard and the power button got stuck. At first it wouldn’t turn on but I fixed that by following instructions online and, with an exacto knife, shaving away some of the metal holding the button down (only cut myself a few times!). Now it won’t turn off, and while it’s usable, the batteries drain fast. So, I turn it off by taking out the batteries and turn it on by putting them back in, and I have to kind of time it with the setting up bluetooth. Because it is still usable, I feel like buying a new keyboard would be an entirely unforgivable expense. I’m pretty sure I’m right about that. But it’s kind annoying.


Four Splashes of Soy Milk (out of five splashes)


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Schrodinger’s Starbucks

The dilemma: I’m going to a party about thirty miles away from here. The party starts around 4, and I’m thinking I want to get some writing done beforehand. Now, the question is, do I go to the Starbucks near my house, write for a bit, then leave… Possibly misjudging the time it takes to get there and losing out on valuable writing time?
OR…

Do I go to a Starbucks near the host’s home? This Starbucks is a completely unknown quantity. It might be awful; tiny and crowded with no tables or only one and it’s wobbly and weird people keep sneezing on me and the bathrooms are broken. BUT it COULD be the best Starbucks ever!!! Roomy and quiet and warm and the perfect place to write and write and write… And I could keep writing until five minutes before I need to be at the party.

I’m frozen with indecision.


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The Best Book on Writing I’ve Ever Read: The Productive Writer by Sage Cohen

The thing about The Productive Writer: Tips and Tools to Help You Write More, Stress Less, and Create Success by Sage Cohen is that it’s not so much about how to write, or at least not about how to improve your craft.

The truth is, it doesn’t matter how well you write if you never write. We all know those people, or are those people, or have been those people, who want to be writers but never really finish anything. I once spent roughly five years with a short story I was going to turn into a novel. I did lots of other things during that five years, of course. Creative, productive things. But I sure didn’t write. Or, I often wrote—I’d do those delightful writing exercises like “What if rain were sticky, and you were a duck?” that possibly helped me to be a better writer, but I never actually completed anything. Ever.

The Productive Writer is about finding the time to write, how to get yourself to sit down and start typing, how to figure out the small steps that lead to big goals, how to make little bad ideas become big good ones, and how to organize your writing career. It drastically changed my writing habits and how I thought about writing. It made me realize I had more time to write than I’d known, helped me figure out which habits worked for me (even if they never would for others) and showed me how to redesign my goals and plans in ways that made sense. It also made extremely clear the ways I was stopping myself from moving forward. I’d already been concentrating for quite some time on changing from being someone who wanted to be a writer to being someone who wrote… This book supercharged that process for me.

five splashes of soy milk (out of five splashes)


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My Dream Coffee Shop

Went to a different coffee shop than usual this morning; I don’t like going to Starbucks before 10 a.m. because the line is always out the door, so I went to the Corner Bakery Cafe where they have self-serve carafes. It was fine, but they don’t have soy milk and there is only cinnamon powder, no nutmeg or cocoa (I feel like there’s sometimes cocoa, but none today). It didn’t ruin my day or anything. But it got me thinking about what my dream coffee shop would be.
I already know my perfect office: Either a bungalow in the Garden of Allah in 1928, or a small studio apartment in an old building with ceiling fans and windows that face the front, sharing a floor with several other writers in studio apartments, on the second floor with a drugstore on the first floor, the sort of drugstore that has a lunch counter with cheap but surprisingly good food, on a street lined with shops (mostly foot traffic, maybe a two-lane road) and a coffee shop directly across from my building.
But what would the coffee shop be like? I made a (probably incomplete) list:Coffee_Shop2

My Dream Coffee Shop:

  • Either self-serve carafes, or an express line for people who just want brewed coffee, nothing fancy, but also no judgment if you feel like standing in the regular line so you can ask questions about things
  • A condiment bar with: cocoa powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, and soy milk
  • Soy milk (I said it already but why the gosh darn do so many places not have soy milk?
  • Plenty of outlets, and then some extra outlets just in case (maybe two outlets per chair), including some in the floor if there are tables in the middle, so people don’t have to stretch cables across the floor
  • Free refills. Yes, I’m cheap; I’m also broke and absolutely can not afford coffee shops where I only get one cup of coffee for my two dollars
  • Shades or tinted windows. The Starbucks I most often go to has a two-hour period in the afternoon in which the sun hits all the cars in the parking lot and having your face turned anywhere towards a window is agony. Even if you manage to sit somewhere facing completely away from the window it isn’t safe, because anything reflective (include a wooden chair) becomes a pool of ocular hell. I always get a crick in my neck from trying to sit in such a way that my cap brim blocks out the light.
  • No music. All right, I like music playing in the background as much as anyone else, but there’s a caveat that I bet most people share: it has to be music I don’t absolutely hate. And there’s so much music I hate. There’s a certain type of singer popular these days, who strains her voice to hit high notes till it becomes all breathy, and it makes my ears bleed. I know for a fact some people hate the music I love just as much. No coffee shop music is going to make everyone happy. Of course I can wear headphones, and I do (although around xmas time they often blast the damn carols so loud I can hear them through my headphones this should never happen) but it still makes me sad if I’m waiting to order or setting up. Why not just turn it off? Why not, darn it? Or, okay, how about Vivaldi? Played at a reasonable volume. Compromise!
  • Napkins at the counter where you order. When I give the barista my re-usable cup, I have to take off the lid and carry it around with me until my pour-over is done. It is always covered in coffee, which I want to wipe up as soon as possible. Anyway, what if someone spills something? Why is this not already a thing?
  • Decaf all day long. I know Starbucks wouldn’t stop brewing decaf after noon if they hadn’t been losing money doing so, but it’s so weird. You have to wait for a pour-over, or the barista convinces you to get an Americano and promises free refills but when you go back for your refill it’s a different barista and they’re all like ‘no refills for Amercano, that’s for brew only’ and it’s a whole thing.
  • Free parking.
  • A place to wait to pick up coffee that is not in the way of where people are going to obviously want to walk.
  • Double-sided condiment bars. Places that have these are the best. Everyone’s so much happier.
  • Well-paid, well-treated baristas. People who are happy in their jobs, who are paid properly, given benefits, and treated respectfully by their managers, do their jobs better, and are nicer to interact with.
  • Customers who don’t jiggle their legs. I understand this might be somewhat outside management’s control. But it’s my dream coffee shop, and this is an important one. I have a horrible time blocking out movement in my peripheral vision, and while I wear a baseball cap it’s not always enough; if I’m looking at my screen and the person next to me is jiggling their leg, I can not block it out. I have to twist around all weird, and if the person on the other side is also jiggling, there will be no writing. People just don’t realize how much harm jiggling can do.
  • Straight-backed, well-padded chairs with good lumbar support. I’m at that age.
  • A requirement that any one person waiting in line to get six complicated drinks for six complicated people hold a sign that says “this line is much longer than it looks.”
  • Pero, or similar. It’s a grain-based drink that tastes a lot like coffee (they claim it tastes exactly like coffee but, well, it comes close) but has no caffeine. I’m not supposed to have caffeine and even decaf has too much for me sometimes. The only tea I like also has caffeine. I’ve honestly wondered if I couldn’t bring in Pero and ask them to charge me for a coffee but just give me hot water.
  • Snacks of the sort you’d get at a 7-11; m&ms and dry cereal and stuff like that. People who sit and write for eight hours in a coffee shop do not need to be munching on muffins all day, especially if they’re not supposed to have sugar. Also, regular food like French fries and things. And soup.
  • Warmth. Man I hate being cold in a coffee shop. I feel like half the time I’m in one I’m shivering uncontrollably. Thermostats controllable by management, and a separate cooling system behind the counter so the baristas aren’t sweltering while we’re freezing.
  • Rest rooms. I shouldn’t have to say it but there’s a Starbucks on Melrose that does not have a public rest room. I don’t go there, obviously, but imagine going to a place like that by mistake.
  • Customers who look just like the people I’m writing about at that moment. Again, I realize this might be outside management’s control. But it’s so nice when it happens.
  • Some regulars who are probably good in a fight. A few months ago, when I was at a Starbucks I go to a lot that is also frequented by a bunch of large Eastern-European men, a (probably mentally-challenged) guy came in and started aggressively harassing a girl near me. At once, five men at nearby tables stood up, and the guy quickly left. Then they sat back down. It was awesome.
  • Posters and paintings on the walls that are conducive to daydreams, and that change regularly. I’m thinking mainly street scenes.
  • A few more tables than are ever needed. Man I hate getting all the way to Starbucks and finding all the tables full. I just hate that so much.
  • A separate section for people who want to be noisy. Or, I guess, for people who want to be quiet. Like the no-phone cars on trains.
  • An information desk with people who know about screenplay formatting and how long boot camp lasts and how much it cost to ride the subway in 1945. This is my dream, damn it.
  • Community chargers (phone, iPad, laptop, etc.) for anyone to use.
  • Mobility. You know how Baba Yaga had a house with chicken legs that followed her around? Something like that. This coffee shop should always be a block away from me, unless I need exercise, in which it should be just under a mile away.
  • Open 24 hours. Obviously.

I know I probably forgot stuff. I’m going to thinking up new things for the rest of the day. That is understood.
edited to add:

  • Trained massage therapists who give five-minute $2 shoulder rubs. Can not BELIEVE I forgot this one.
  • Free wi-fi I guess this has become so common I don’t even think about it anymore. Except every now and then you’ll be in a place that doesn’t have it and it’s totally discombobulating. Of course the best is when you don’t need a password; it takes forever otherwise (I’m looking at you, Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf).


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Review: The Starbucks App

It makes no sense that I only just got the Starbucks app, but when it first came out my phone wasn’t smart enough, and then when I got my Android I just… forgot it existed. I don’t know. Anyway, I have it now. starbucksandroidapp

I think the iPhone version might be fancier, but there are three sections in the Android app: Rewards, Cards, and Stores.
The rewards section tells you how many more stars you need to stay a Gold member, which is kind of weird; you only need to buy one coffee a month to stay a member and I don’t really see anyone bothering to download the app if they don’t go to Starbucks at least once a month? It also tells you how many free drinks you have and when they expire, which is great for me because I always feel like I should save my free drinks for something fancier than brewed coffee, except that’s really all I drink (not being allowed caffeine OR sugar kind of limits one) so my free drinks tend to expire. Now I can keep an eye on it. So that’s nice. Not so much so that I’d pay money for the app, but it’s a free app.
In the Cards section you can see how much money is on your cards, but much more importantly, you can pay with your phone. When I heard about this, I really just didn’t get how INCREDIBLY awesome it would be. I always have my phone in my hand when I’m standing in line at Starbucks anyway, and digging out my wallet seems to be the hugest pain in the world somehow. Which it isn’t. I know it isn’t. But it feels like it is. I would pay as much as a dollar for this app, just for this convenience. Then I’d feel guilty for having spent a dollar on something so minor, so it’s good that it’s free. ****Important**** Immediately after typing all this I went to pay with my phone and the app crashed and I had to dig out my wallet for my card and everyone glared at me for not having my card out ahead of time only I totally would have if I’d known the app was about to crash god damn it.
The Stores section finds nearby stores, which I love, and most importantly, tells you all sorts of things about them, like if they’re the fake Starbucks inside grocery stores and when they’re open and whether they have fireplaces (around here, of course, the answer is no—never any fireplaces). Also you can search according to what amenities you want or have it only show you stores currently open. Obviously, the best thing in the world would be if they told you whether you were going to turn up at the Starbucks only to find that the line was out the door and every table was taken, but I do understand that sort of thing changes too quickly to be feasible. I would happily pay $50 for this feature, but only within twenty seconds of showing up at a Starbucks and finding it closed inside a grocery store. The rest of the time I wouldn’t pay any money for it because come on.

Four Splashes of Soy Milk (out of five splashes)


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Specific Reviews of Specific Places in Which I’ve Written: Starbucks, Alameda & San Fernando, Burbank

I’ve only recently started coming here to write; there are four Starbucks closer to my house and the place is TINY. Just seven tables. But, I don’t know, I really like it. It’s cozy and everyone seems sort of relaxed and happy. Besides, it seems to do mostly to-go business, so while it’s always kind of bustling I’ve never had any trouble getting a table (the one closest to me has 20+ tables and about half the time I go there every chair is full). There’s a little patio outside that has another four tables, but as we’re in a strip mall the only thing to look at is a parking lot. My only real complaint about this Starbucks is that it’s a very long, narrow store, and the condiment bar is at the opposite end from the pick-up counter, with the ordering counter in between, and the only napkin dispenser is at the condiment bar. I don’t understand how these things happen.

Four-and-a-half Splashes of Soy Milk (out of five splashes)


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A ridiculously long time spent at Starbucks

12:30 p.m. To say I’m starting later than I intended is an insult to the entire concept of time. Why am I so bad at getting out of the house? But, I’m here now. There’s that, I suppose.

12:32 p.m. “here” is Starbucks, btw. And I’m not leaving for a long, long time.

12:46 p.m. those big headphones that cover the whole ear–the sort DJs wear–seem to be becoming more and more of a thing. I understand the listening experience is greatly improved and all, but they seem to me like they’d just be one more pain-in-the-ass thing to carry around.

12:52 p.m. I use a nickel to unscrew the battery compartment on my keyboard. I just absent-mindedly put it down on the table, then glanced at it moment later and saw it’s standing on its edge. Have nickels gotten thicker? The only other explanation is ghosts.

1:17 p.m. Just realized the paramedics are here. Dimly appalled that there was, apparently, some sort of emergency and I didn’t notice. No one seems to be moving very fast, though. They’re taking a girl’s blood pressure. I’m guessing she fainted.

1:25 p.m. Getting a refill. Recently downloaded the Starbucks app to my phone and I just remembered I can use it to pay with my Starbucks card. Wish I’d thought of it when I got the original cup of coffee, as that would be more momentous and all, but still: exciting!

1:26 p.m. A thing I really wish: that this Starbucks kept napkins by the cash registers so that when I take the lid off my cup for them to refill, I could wipe away all the drops of coffee clinging to the lid. I mean, obviously this would not be in my top three wishes, or even my top 100, but still.

1:28 p.m. Barista did not seem to understand how exciting it was that I was using the phone app for the first time. She’s the only one here I really don’t like much.

1:33 p.m. and when she gave me my coffee, there were grounds floating on top. Great.

1:50 p.m. I have an insanely horrible itch on the bottom of my foot. If I take off my shoe and scratch it, I’ll feel like a huge weirdo if anyone notices. But… I don’t think I have a choice.

1:51 pretty sure I made it look like I was just retying my shoe.

1:54 p.m. Have not gotten nearly as much writing done as I should have by now. Am going to set my timer and see how much I can write in 30 minutes. Go!

2:50 p.m. Ended up doing 45 minutes straight. 1300 words. Not my best but I’ve done worse. To reach my day’s goal I just have to do that… Five more times. Oh dear. Did I mention I got kind of a late start? Maybe I can type faster…

3:03 p.m. There is a car right outside the window across from my table and sunlight is bouncing off the chrome directly into my eyes. Can’t seem to adjust my cap to block it (I know you’re sad that my life is so hard).

3:05 p.m. Have twisted myself around ridiculously to avoid incredibly bright light, but keep glancing up to see if it’s gone, cause I’m an idiot.

3:07 p.m. Right. Another 45 minutes.

3:57 p.m. 1200 words. Durn it. I honestly thought I was typing faster that time, too.

3:55 p.m. The charger for my android has an attachment that makes it a charger for my iPod. I think we can all agree that this is the best thing anyone has ever invented.

4:07 p.m. Guy at the condiments bar asked me about my $1 reusable cup. I told him about how if you buy 10 cups of coffee it pays for itself. He thought people using it should get free refills, and I told him about how you get free refills with the gold card. Then I told him how to get a gold card. By the end of the conversation I felt the need to clarity that I don’t work for Starbucks.

6:03 p.m. I’ve written about 4500 words so far today. It’s a lot but should be more. I think its time to get something to eat. The plan was to go next door to the salad place, or maybe Zankou chicken, but I’m worried that when I come back there won’t be any tables. Trying to decide if I should just eat something here, but I don’t like much of the real food they have. Plus, I’m sorry, but it’s sort of over priced, too.

6:58 p.m. Ended up leaving to get food. Have returned, fed (awful, but my fault for ordering the wrong things), and found a table. Not a great one; it’s by the door and its super cold out but whatever. It’s a table.

7:03 p.m. Just got back from getting my coffee to find two young teenagers sitting at my table. I pointed out my notebook was on the table, and they moved–luckily another table had just opened up. I’m feeling kind of rude, like maybe I should have taken the new table instead (and asked them to give me my notebook I guess?) but in the moment I was just really disconcerted. Its a very large, very bright red notebook. Normally I put my jacket on the chair as well as something on the table… it was just too cold to not wear it. Anyway, I’m feeling kind of bad about the whole thing.

7:25 p.m. Couple next to me having a half-joking argument. Woman just asked me to tell her boyfriend not to talk to her like that. I did, with no reservations. Jerk face.

7:30 p.m. Kind of regretting my “whatever it’s a table” line. It is absurdly cold by the door. So glad I brought fingerless gloves. Wish is also brought a blanket.

7:41 p.m. Darn it, earlier a guy with something really weird written on his shirt came in and I was going to mention it here but I didn’t want to stop working…and now I can’t remember what it was. Clearly my priorities are screwed up.

7:45 p.m. It might actually be so cold I have to leave.

8:50 p.m. Stuck it out for a while. Now at 6500 words for the day (not counting the 1000 I wrote here…), which means with what I’d already written I’m a third of the way through my current project. Was planning on walking home, but my lovely husband has offered to come get me.

9:00 p.m. Yes of COURSE I left a tip. Sheesh.


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They’re Probably Not There to Make Friends, or, Should You Talk to That Person at the Next Table?

First and foremost, the only circumstances under which it is okay to talk to a person wearing headphones and staring at a screen are: A. they are on fire, B. a lion is about to eat them, C. they are physically blocking you from something you legitimately need, like an outlet, a table, or your baby (indicate this as quickly and simply as possible, with hand gestures instead of speech if you can).
You don’t know their life, they could have ten minutes to write a eulogy for their Aunt Edna, they could be sending instructions on how to defuse a bomb. Or they could be writing the stupidest fanfiction of all time, but that’s their right. They don’t want to talk to you, that’s the important thing.

But what if they’re still settling in? What if they’re not wearing headphones and seem to be spending just as much time looking around as looking at the screen? Well, maybe. I’ve listed some of the reasons you might talk to someone sitting alone at a coffee shop, and graded the acceptability of each.

1. There has just been an earthquake. When there is an earthquake, even a small one, everyone in the coffee shop becomes close friends for 1-6 minutes. You make speak to anyone during this time, but be aware that when they start posting on twitter and facebook, you’re all strangers again. A+
2. You want to hit on them. Ugh. Just don’t. Okay, sure, it’s possible they’re your soul mate or someone who would be totally interested in making kissey faces with you, but statistics call it unlikely. At the very least, play the long game. Make eye contact, smile, then let it be. Take off your headphones, leave the newspaper on the corner of your table so they can ask for it, whathaveyou. Maybe you’ll see them next week again, and exchange smiles, and then be in the line at the same time and can talk about the parfaits, and eventually it’ll happen and you’ll get married. If you’re perfect for each other, you can wait a week or two. But err on the side of not being pushy about it. Look at it this way: If you don’t hit on them and they wanted you to (but were too shy, or you both read this blog) then you both might miss out on getting all kissy face. That’s one bad outcome. But if you do hit on them and they didn’t want you, they may feel awkward and want to leave sooner than they’d planned, or even feel uncomfortable about going back to that coffee shop. It really is truly unpleasant to have someone aggressively hit on you when you don’t want them to. You feel guilty, or scared, or both. If nothing else, your desire to be polite keeps you from whatever you sat down in the coffee shop to do. I’m sorry, but that’s a lot worse than maaaaaybe missing out on just-barely-possible kissy face. F-
3. You want to ask about their incredible keyboard/laptop case/whatever. I kind of love it when people ask me about stuff. My AlphaSmart 3000 gets lots of attention, and I’ve more than once stopped what I was doing to show people how my wireless keyboard connects to my iPad through the magic of Bluetooth. But I’m possibly the exception. So, if they’re not already hard at work, go ahead and ask, but let them guide the conversation. You can ask what it’s called and where they got it, but let them decide if they want to go into how it works and what it cost and whether they wish they got it in red. B
4. You just got great news/They just got great news. I was in a coffee shop when I got the call telling me I had the job I’d been hoping like crazy for. I hung up, glanced around, saw a person next to me who wasn’t wearing headphones or looking busy, and said, “I got the job!” I felt like I HAD to tell someone. She smiled, congratulated me, asked me a question or two, and we went back to what we’d been doing before, both smiling. Another time, I was sitting at a counter next to a young man. He finished one phone call, quickly dialed another, and said “Mom?! I’m hired! I start Monday!!!” When he got off the phone, I smiled at him and said “didn’t mean to eavesdrop, but congratulations!” He was just so happy, it made me happy. He told me about the wonderful dream job he’d landed, and we went back to what we’d been doing. The key to all this is brevity and reading the room. Make it quick and keep it upbeat. And again—if they have their eyes fixed firmly on something else, go post on facebook instead. C
5. You have a screenplay formatting question. I am often tempted to do this in L.A., because you just know someone sitting nearby has the answer. But, yeah, just don’t. Look it up online, or wait till you get home. No grade, because come on, you weren’t really going to do that, were you?
6. Something creepy or bizarre just happened, like a loud argument between two adult sisters, or a drunk guy singing “My Way.” Nah. That’s what meaningful eye contact is for. D
7. You want them to watch your stuff. This is pretty much okay (although I almost never have the nerve—how do you know they are not a thief??) but you absolutely MUST be back within twelve minutes, no exceptions. NONE. A/F—(grade down for every two minutes over five, additional minus sign for every minute over twelve minutes)
8. They are doing something obviously incredibly inappropriate, like using five tables and six outlets or deliberately, I don’t know, pouring stuff on the floor. Look, don’t get in any fist fights, okay? A lot of places have a policy that if two people get in a fight, and the staff wants to kick out/ban one of them, they pretty much have to kick out/ban both. First, decide if it’s really hurting you/ anyone else, or just driving you up the wall (happens to me all the time; it’s what baseball cap brims and headphones are for). The best thing to do, probably, is point it out to the person as if you 100% assume they are doing it by mistake and are about to be really embarrassed (but don’t be condescending, okay? More like you’re being helpful. It has to be totally sincere-sounding). Then, if they continue to do it, go talk to someone who works there. You can also tell them if they ACTUALLY did something by mistake, like dropped something. In fact, just go ahead and assume anything they might be doing was a mistake, at least at first. B
9. You think someone is being bugged by another patron. This can be really difficult. If you see someone being touched who clearly doesn’t want to be touched, intervene at once, and do it loudly. “EXCUSE ME IS THIS PERSON BOTHERING YOU” will get the attention of nearby people. But if it’s not that overt, it can be a lot harder. If, for instance, you absolutely can’t tell whether the man leaning over the woman’s computer and getting closer than seems quite right is a stranger or her boyfriend. What I try to do in those situations is give her an easy out to move to a different conversation. This is can feel really awkward but isn’t too hard—just say, apologetically, “Excuse me, can I interrupt, is that a [such-and-so laptop, purse, phone]? I was thinking of getting one…” It would possibly be rude if you weren’t secretly doing it to help the person, but as it is you get a pass… only they don’t know that and if they ARE friends and he/she doesn’t turn to you with great relief, you might feel embarrassed. Or maybe not, maybe she’ll answer briefly and go back to her nice conversation. Whatever, do it anyway. It’s another of those worst case scenario things. Be a hero, and maybe someone will be a hero to you at some point. A+
10. You really, really, really don’t want to start writing yet. I understand, I truly do. But you’ve got the whole internet, and it’s there for you. There’s also windows to stare out of, laptop bags to organize, and hey–isn’t it time you made a really good to-do list? D

There are different rules, of course, if it’s several people talking. If you want to contribute something to the conversation (NOT because you want to hit on them, but because you’re interested or have something of value), well, play it by ear. Remember that they’re not there for you, and no one owes you their time and attention. But occasionally you can go for it. If you hear they’re about to go someplace you lived or just visited, tell them about a great guide book or museum. But err on the side of brevity. It’s pretty much always better that way. In fact, I’ll just go ahead and say ALWAYS.


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SHAMEFUL POST OF SHAME

 

42 Things I Have Done Since Arriving at this Starbucks OTHER Than Writing the Thing I’m Supposed to be Writing:

1. Found a table; 2. Found a chair for the table; someone had taken both the chairs; 3. Ordered my coffee; 4. Used the ladies’; 5. Explained to the barista that that couldn’t possibly be my decaf grande pour-over, as I brought my own cup; 6. Repeated myself a couple times; 7. Got correct coffee rather than the FULL-CAFFEINE stuff she’d been trying to give me; 8. Posted on FaceBook about caffeine near-fiasco; 9. Set up iPad’s wireless keyboard (it’s a whole thing; the power button is stuck so I have to unscrew it and put in batteries every time); 10. Checked FB; 11. Checked Blog stats; 12. Thought of blog post; 13. Tried to write blog post on ‘new post’ page in Safari, discovered it’s wonky on my iPad; 14. Downloaded WordPress app for my iPad; 15. Got impatient with download speed; 16. Typed blog post in Notes; 17. Pasted blog post in ‘new post’ section in Safari; 18. Tried again; 19. Tried again; 20. Successfully posted blog post; 21. Posted on FB about blog; 22. Tried to fix weird formatting issue; 23. Gave up; 24. Tried again; 25. Gave up; 26. Checked FB; 27. Got refill; 28. Used ladies’; 29. Entirely ignored own philosophy of table-sharing as incredibly skeevy-looking guy walked by with his laptop; 30. Put on a sweater; 31. Felt guilty about skeevy-looking guy; 32. Realized skeevy-looking guy had sat down in a random table-less chair right behind me and was doing something involving the loud opening of  plastic containers plus  lip-smacking so enthusiastically that I could hear it through my headphones; 33.  Opened the finally-downloaded wordpress app only to get some sort of error message; 34. Checked FaceBook; 35. Commented on FaceBook; 36. Noticed I’d missed a call from Dad; 37. Listened to voicemail from Dad and decided it was too late to call Dad back; 38. Pointed out to skeevy-looking guy (in a friendly way) that a table had opened up only to learn that he’s perfectly happy sitting six inches behind me at a chair without a table; 39. Tried to subtly move table, chair, and self away from skeevy-looking guy; 40. Checked FaceBook; 41. Commented on FaceBook; 42. Thought of and wrote this list. Another thing I’m about to do: 1.  Post this.
This is truly unlike me. I’m usually really good about getting a lot of writing done when it’s time to do so. Fortunately, I’m stuck here–I walked and now it’s dark out and raining, and I can’t leave until my husband picks me up; four hours from now at the earliest. I do that on purpose, to make myself write. It works, almost all the time. It could still work. It’s not too late.