Cracking The Code

Another Sunday, another office day. There’s a certain point when I pack myself a digital lunch bag and relocate to someplace very public to continue my work.

Nearby, I have The Bagel Place With The Free WiFi. I reckon that a wheat bagel and a can of soda buys me at least two hours of guilt-free office time. If I’m going to make it a full four, I either order a full lunch or just stick a couple of bucks into the tip jar. The employees have been told by the shop’s absentee owner “Remember, people with laptops aren’t allowed to stay unless they’re buying things.” I choose to buy the good will of the poorly-paid hourly wage-earners.

It’s a good system and it seems to work very well for all parties.

The BPwtFW closes at 6. If I’m not done working, but I’m not ready to go home yet, I’ll move on to the Panera Bread up the street. Their prices are fairly atrocious, but I make it all back on the free soda refills.

At the moment, I’m set up at the Chipotle (way) up the street. The staff is friendly. The food is cheap, healthy, and tasty. The soda spills carelessly from an ever-replenishing font, just like Wonka’s chocolate waterfall.

I limit myself to just iPad work here, though. The joint has only enough tables to handle normal eat-and-go customer traffic. Setting up a virtual office — complete with MiFi base station — seems like a showboaty and ungrateful gesture. It gets the job done, though: I can finish editing a piece that I copied into my Dropbox from home, or get to the end of the chapter of the book I’m reading, or relentlessly refresh a bunch of news pages in hopes that I’ll find one more thing that I need to research or follow up on before regretfully pulling up stakes, getting one last soda refill, and finally heading home.

Alien field operatives are sent to this planet with what seems like a very simple mission. It doesn’t take long before the new agent understands why there’s such a rapid burnout rate for Sol-3 field agents, or why the veteran agent he relieved had such a harrowed look on his face.

“Understanding the Humans” is a deceptively complex goal. We’re a maddeningly confusing and contradictory species.

My advice to these aliens: focus on just one thing. If you can figure out the human need to occasionally be all alone but surrounded by people, you’ll understand everything there is to know about us.

18 thoughts on “Cracking The Code

  1. Scott

    Oh so true. When I was working freelance a couple of years ago, I would often realize my innate need to get out of my house and to the nearest cafe that I could find. Shame that my town is very small and only has one, but it still fit the bill!

  2. Joe R.

    Might I suggest a burrito bowl for two reasons?

    1) The spoon-bowl combination leaves a hand always free for the iPad. While a Chipotle Verteren will have no trouble with a one-handed burrito, there is always the risk of rupture and it doesn’t come off an iPad without a micro-fiber cloth.

    2) There’s a specific number of useless calories in a wrap and a bowl has less (even if you eat the bowl).

  3. MisplacedLonghorn

    I do similar things at The Overpriced Mermaid-Logoed Coffee Joint. The only real downside is my job with (rhymes with) Smell requires me to take conference calls, so it’s not often a long-term solution.

  4. Rockhopper

    Nice. It’s been awhile since I’ve been to a Chipotle. Miss it. BTW, what iPad case you got there? Does it have a little kickstand action going on?

  5. John

    You’re more generous than I am Andy. I figure a $2 coffee buys me 3-4 hours of “desk space” + free WiFi at my local Starbucks, and I’m there 3 or 4 times a week to take advantage of it.

  6. iScreem

    I am in complete agreement with getting out of the house to get some work done. I love to visit my local coffee shops and sit back for a few hours to get some programming or school work done. I believe in paying for the complimentary services as well and usually purchase a large latte/drink every couple hours. I have come to know the staff very well and have nice conversations with many of them. I love this type of environment and it actually helps me focus on getting things done more so than if I was at home.

    Great article

  7. TMac

    I agree with the sentiment completely. I would also suggest trying your local library. The lack of food may be a deal breaker for some but the free wi-fi, large well lit tables and various study nooks tend to make up for it.

  8. Guy (CouchGuy) McLimore

    I’m currently seeking such a wi-fi equipped hangout for myself, actually. I’m often in a position these days when I must wait out a couple of hours before I can pick up my wife, and I need to find a quick bite to eat and a quiet place to work. The local McDonalds has wi-fi but it is uncomfortable and loud (and the wi-fi is spotty at best). We have a wonderful library, but no food or drink there and it is not open late enough. Someone is going to get a lot of dinner-and-beer business out of me (as much as 2 or 3 evenings a week, if this keeps up) once I find the right spot.

  9. Mark Maris

    We have free wifi along Main St in Nashua (NH), so any open-air eatery (or brewery) along the road is a good office, and there are several this time of year.

    BTW, Andy, sorry to say that your pages are still hacked. I just brought this one up in Firefox/noscript, and I was wondering if “cracking the code” referred to the hundreds of spam references at the top of the page. I finally realized, “no, it’s not supposed to look that way”.

  10. Blair

    I love getting out amongs the crowds, but I am lazy and don’t want to travel more than 4 blocks on foot. Seems all the areas around me have crazy people or drag queens hanging out. Inveribly they start talking to me and I need to take off. Or the places around that I do like are over a mile away. Yes, McDonalds is useless for their WiFi and in complaining to their corporate offices they tell me to go to McDonalds that have WiFi – which is odd since I have to state which stores I am complaining about and those include WiFi in their listings. Seems the Mc Donalds people are doing too many carbs and falling asleep. ;-)

  11. Chris Kerins

    For those who like the cafe ambiance and would like to be surrounded by like minded people, look up a coworking place near you. Yes, you pay a little, but if you value the interaction with other entrepreneurial folks, it’s worth it. It’s just the type of thing for freelancers who miss the real world.

  12. Victor

    Yes. Isn’t that paradoxical need the impetus behind so much of blogging in general? I spend many weeks a year working alone on the road, so I am very aware of the feeling of being alone amongst many, yet at home.

  13. Pau

    You’re going to ruin your girlish figure with all that free soda. Pay AT&T the $30.00 (I seldom use the higher priced MiFi) and drink water.

    The Crane Library in Quincy is first rate.

  14. PokerCat

    Bagel Place? I would have taken you as a Kupel’s guy, especially if you are a MiFi virtual office.

    Third vote for libraries. Especially in old rust belt cities that were donated by Andrew Carnegie.

    I even drop in on libraries while on vacation. The library in Rapid City, SD (I was playing poker in Deadwood) had a the TRex “Stan” on display back in 2003.

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