I have written a lot of things in coffee shops. I have written books that have not sold. I have written one book that sold (literally dozens of copies). I have written screenplays that have not sold. I have written the back-of-DVD copy for a Walker, Texas Ranger collection. And, most recently, I have written an article about a falcon who has sex with a man’s hat. I’m even writing this from a Peet’s, in Los Angeles.
So, it’s safe to say I know a few things about working in coffee shops. It’s also safe to say I know a few things about crushing poverty and professional humiliation — but let’s focus on the coffee shop thing for now.
To be clear, this article is not meant for people who use coffee shops for awkward first dates, exhausted parents gathering their resolve while their children use the furniture as playground equipment, travelers taking emergency BMs on long road trips, teenagers hanging out, teenagers engaging in flagrantly inappropriate PDA, teenagers playing Candy Crush at full volume on their cellphones four feet from me as I write this, people occasionally consuming coffee, and your mom buying that smooth jazz CD she heard about on Good Morning America.
I have no quarrel with these people. These people are using coffee shops exactly how they were intended to be used.
Instead, I am addressing the parasites, the ticks that have burrowed into the meaty haunches of the coffee shop to suckle off the WiFi and the ample supply of sanitary paper in the bathrooms. I am addressing the coffee shop freelancer.
I know who you are, because I am a toilet-paper hoarding monster, just like you. I’ve sat in the posture-destroying chairs, watching the disgusting behavior of my fellow coffee shop freelancers over the years, and I think it’s high time we start holding ourselves to a higher standard.
We are the worst part of coffee shops. We are even more annoying than Oprah chai, without any of the social benefits of Oprah chai. But we can be better. We can start following these rules:
Ten Commandments for Writing in a Coffee Shop without Being a Complete Dick
I. Thou Shalt Buy a Scone
Yes, you have already bought a small green tea, and yes, you are technically a paying customer, and yes, you can technically stay in the coffee shop all day, tapping away at your Gandalf meets Magneto slash fic, because *technically* you aren’t loitering.
Being that you’re already occupying valuable real estate, coffee shop owners are going to hate you, regardless. But you can make them hate you just a little bit less by buying another coffee, or a scone, or some other delicious treat. A good rule of thumb is to spend one dollar for every hour you are in a coffee shop.
It’s a great value. Try renting an office for a dollar an hour. Better yet, try doing anything worth doing for a dollar an hour. I guess you could wander around in nature, and I suppose some people think that’s fun, but when has nature given you anything as majestic as an iced cinnamon roll?