“Dear New Coffee Shop Owner,
You have made a big mistake. While thinking you were doing the right thing, you have actually made me feel unwelcome. Like many in this place, you have made a decision that inadvertently alienates me. Because the new coffee shop that I thought was going to change my life and make me feel normal again……. doesn’t……. have……. wifi.
Or…...even…...outlets (scratching eyeballs out).
How out of touch are you to think that you are doing people a FAVOR by not providing them with the resources they need to do their work in a place that is more enjoyable and more social than a cube? The resources that are the norm at every other coffee shop in America. This is how people work in the new millennium. That’s what people do in coffee shops - they drink coffee and work. All I want is a fucking iced chai latte with soy and maybe a blondie brownie. It doesn’t have to be venti or grande or whatever. I’d just as soon order a small…..but I do need something to drink while I manage my email. And I thought it would be nice to do this daily and very necessary chore in the midst of my neighbors - instead of in isolation.
We are already so isolated in this place………and your decision to discourage the use of electronics in your COFFEE SHOP (seriously???), the only coffee shop in the area, just keeps us further isolated. There is a culture that exists outside of these borders whether you like it or not. It’s not a bad culture - it’s vibrant and interesting and worthwhile – and it’s the way we work in this day and age. If people can’t work here, they will not come.
You don’t have to change and conform to what I think is normal and good. But it’s clear that you don’t want my kind here. And so I’m leaving. This place is of no use to me.”
I saw a bumper sticker the other day that said “Friends don’t let friends buy Starbucks.” And 18 months ago, I would have agreed - why go to Starbucks when you have Dunn Brothers and Caribou and Turtle Bread and Java Jacks and Kenwood Deli and Rustica and…..etc., etc., etc. The city thrives on coffee. My (former) city thrived on coffee.
But coffee shops are few and far between here in the woods. People will cry “Dunkin Donuts! What about Double D?” Yes, they have coffee. But it’s not a coffee shop. It’s just a place to get coffee and get back in your car. It’s like McDonald’s. I’m talking about a place to enjoy a beverage during the day that is not soda. A place to meet up with a friend without the time commitment of lunch. A place for a quick meeting without signing up for the conference room. A place to get some work done because your house is disturbingly quiet and the laundry keeps calling your name. A place to relax and read a magazine - (because the laundry never stops calling your name). A place to be alone……..but surrounded by people.
And to be clear, I don’t even drink coffee. It’s not about the coffee. It’s about the people and the comfy chairs and the treats and the fireplace and the buzz of activity that means you’re a part of the world.
When we first arrived in New Hampshire, I drove around with my computer, trolling for a place to work. I drove and drove and drove and drove until I ended up at a McDonald’s. Did you know they have free wifi? I had to clean ketchup off the table before setting up my computer. At that moment I would have eaten glass for a Starbucks. How did the company that put two stores on one block completely miss this part of the world? I’ll give you your corporate greed and your world domination if you’ll just give me a comfy chair and a chai latte that doesn’t taste like a gingerbread house.
So you can imagine how excited I was when the fancy new grocery store opened near my house with a sign that said “Coffee Shop Coming Soon!” I swear, I camped out in the parking lot, holding my computer with the specially designed orange and yellow striped skin for which I paid $75 extra.
I waited and waited and when the doors finally opened, I ran in clutching my computer hoping to score a table by an outlet. Then I laughed at my panic - because this place was brand new, not retrofitted - they’d surely have outlets at every table.
But I couldn’t find my outlet. This is stupid. I must be looking right at it. Wow, maybe they didn’t put an outlet at every spot.
So I look around……….and I don’t see ANY outlets.
Ever the optimist, I’m sure this isn’t right. I sheepishly approach the counter girl - “This is so dumb, but I can’t find an outlet.”
“There aren’t any,” she says.
“(this is me saying nothing because I’m sure that’s not what she said)” I said.
I recover. “You did not just open a coffee shop and forget to put outlets in.” Trying not to be snarky but it’s not working.
“We didn’t forget. It’s on purpose. There’s no wifi either.”
(this is where I clutch my chest in disbelief because, seriously, no coffee shop owner could be that stupid. I clutch my chest and I stare at her. I say nothing.)
Because I’m just staring at her, she says “The owner wanted people to talk to each other.”
Disbelief. More silence. I finally say, “That is a mistake. Our computers are our work. That’s what we do during the day. I’m not on my computer because I’m avoiding people - I’m doing my job. Just like you are doing your job standing behind that counter and taking my order. And I thought it would be nice to work here and give you my money instead of being at home working by myself and giving no one my money. I was planning on picking up some groceries on the way out, too. But instead, I will go someplace else with an outlet and wifi. I will get in my car and I will drive 10 miles to the nearest outlet and wifi and I will give them my money. Please, please, please tell your boss that this is a very, very big mistake. As in, I’m not coming back.”
And then I started to cry.
And I pictured someone coming up to me in the grocery store and asking, “Why are you crying?” And I would say “Because the new coffee shop doesn’t have wifi. Or outlets.”
It’s like these people are all getting together secretly to find ways to make me feel out of place. They just keep kicking me in the nuts. This transition goes on and on because there were so many unforeseen changes, so many things that were so taken for granted and so a part of my fiber that I didn’t realize that they didn’t exist elsewhere. And I stumble upon the unforeseen changes one by one, each one a stupid surprise, making this transition take much longer than it should.
I knew I loved wifi. But I had no idea how much I would miss outlets.