Monday, November 28, 2005

Ground-less Computing

Last night at 6:00, before going to a Blue Man Group show (a "must see" by the way), The BF and I thought we would stop into Caribou Coffee for a cup’a Joe to kill some time and just relax. But after entering the coffee shop, I was disappointed to find that out of the 30 or so tables in the shop, none of them were available. And to make matters worse, only one of those used 30 tables was being taken up by coffee drinkers. The other 29 tables served as desks for 29 laptop users.

Caribou is not an internet cafĂ©, it’s a coffee shop. They might be a “hotspot”, but that is not meant to invite every laptop user in the city to come to their establishment and take up valuable real estate for people who are actually purchasing their product and are being socially interactive. Once more for emphasis - socially interactive.

Laptop users leave their homes to sit in the proximity of people to whom they will not speak to send messages and emails to people who aren’t there.  It is as if they are saying to the world, “See me? I am important. I have things to do. And since there is no one in my apartment to see me doing this thing I am doing, I wanted to come here so someone could see me doing it.” A quick scan of the tables also showed that only 5 of the 29 actually had a product purchased from Caribou Coffee on their tables. The others were just freely using property. It’s like going into Nordstrom and changing into an outfit off the rack, and then wearing it around the store while you shop. Or going to an auto dealership and sitting in a car all day so no one else can test drive it.

Granted, there are plenty of people who legitimately take their laptops to other locations in order to work, play, or chat with friends. I have been one of those people. My apartment is currently a war zone. My landlord decided (two weeks after I moved in) that my bathroom and kitchen needed remodeling. As a result, the dining room is housing the boxes of cupboards, the new dishwasher, and the hood microwave; which means all the dining room chairs are now in the living room. Every surface in my apartment is covered in white plaster dust. And since the contractors show no signs of completing this gig any time soon, I tend to escape my surroundings once every few weeks, but only during the day when Caribou and Starbucks are basically empty.

I guess it would be nice if other laptop users were as aware of their surroundings as I am when I take my laptop for a field trip. Coffee shops might be fine for computer users during the day, but they should be given back to the coffee drinkers at night.