The last couple months have left me wondering how coffee shops — Starbucks, Caribou — make money. From my daily visits, they appear to be filled with people such as myself, people who pay a buck eighty for a cup of coffee, then use the coffee shop as an office for the day. Office space — with unlimited refills in the case of Caribou — with Wifi for less than $2 a day? That’s hard to beat even in this commercial real estate market.
Of course ...
There is one drawback to the coffice: Your fellow squatters. They aren’t loud, and that’s the problem. They tend to talk softly, which tends to make you all the more interested in what they’re saying.
Last Thursday my laptop and I camped in an easy chair at Caribou. Next to me was a younger guy, early 30s, computer in lap, Blackberry at the ready, on the arm of his chair. The phone rang: “Hey!” he bellowed. Then, in a barely audible tone, “Oh! Oh really?” I could have left it at that, except that I picked up on a few key phrases: “September launch,” “content managers,” “content editors.”
Did I mention that editing content is among my job skills?
I listened harder, listing in this fellow’s direction. The more excited his tone, the softer he spoke. My ear was practically in his lap before he returned to full bellow and announced, “I’ll be in the office in five minutes,” packed up and was gone. No chance for a casual, “So ... what was that all about?”
The next day a man and woman were sitting two tables away. They were engaged in a civil dispute, the dispassionate tone of which suggested a supervisor and subordinate who’d left the office to work out a personality dispute.
“You’re constantly talking over me,” she said.
“I don’t intend to,” he countered, trying a humorous spin. “I just have things to say.”
“Well, it’s very demeaning.” She didn’t think he was funny.
Then: “If you thought you could change.” That’s an odd thing to say to your boss, I thought. Shortly, they left the coffee shop, walked to her car, got a bunch of his clothes, put them in his car, gave each other a “See ya,” good bye. Turns out it was a couple breaking up.
A little while ago today, at the next table, a business deal was going down. I wasn’t paying much attention until I noticed that they seemed to think I was eavesdropping, which did make me eavesdrop, which made them speak in hushed tones. Again, no idea what was going on, didn’t really care, yet I wasted half an hour trying to figure out their deal.
Now, coffice permitting, I need to spend a little time trying to figure out my deal.