Friday, October 1, 2010

Café people: Creepy sleeping guy

There were times - especially back before I was married - when my schedule was thrown hideously out of whack. I'd wake up at 3am, full of vim and vigor, strangely itching to work but not wanting to hang around the apartment.  So I'd walk the ten minutes to Union Square and enter a 24 hour Starbucks.  Late at night, it's like a different world.  I'd see drug addicts, drunks, late-night partiers just coming out of the nightclubs or bars, and yes - a homeless guy or two.  The staff would crank up the music to ridiculous levels in order to prevent patrons from falling asleep (which they did, often). 

My schedule is pretty normal these days, but if you ever play Blackwell Legacy or Blackwell Unbound, you can play them knowing that a good chunk was programmed while some frazzled drunk was at the next table, squinting at my screen and wondering what the heck I was doing.

Anyway, I was reminded of those carefree days when I entered one of my usual cafés this morning.  It was a Cosi's, one of several that are scattered downtown.  I went to this one because it is close to home and it was absolutely pouring rain outside.  The staff know me (I go a lot) and it has a wall-length window that gives an awesome view of the street.  The only problem is that there is only one decent electrical outlet.  If the table is free, it's a sweet spot to work.  It's tucked away in the corner and nobody bothers you.  For some reason, this table is usually free in the mornings when I show up.

So this morning I enter the cafe, drenched from the rain, and see that the table is free.  I make my way over, but then notice one small niggle.  The outlet was partially blocked by a chair - one of those big, faux leather things.  Normally not a big deal, as I'd just maneuver my electrical cord around the chair.  The problem was what was IN the chair - an overstuffed, scruffy, middle-aged guy in dirty clothes who was snoring away with his head slumped on his chest.  Next to him was a small coffee - evidentially purchased to justify his staying there - but he wasn't planning on drinking it any time soon.  The staff at the place were looking at him with distain, but were saying and doing nothing about it.  I asked one of the staff ladies, and she said that the "Manager said it was OK, since he bought a drink."  Like it or not, the guy was staying.

So, I had a choice.  One - I could go to the table and start working without plugging in my laptop, hoping the creepy guy would get up and leave before my battery ran dry. Two - I could actually WAKE the guy so I could move his chair and plug my cord in. Or Three - go back out into the torrential rain and go somewhere else. 

I took another look at the guy. He was starting to drool. My mind made up, I chose the third option.  I walked out into the drenching downpour and made my way to another place.  So I began my day significantly wetter, but significantly less creeped out.

What would you have done in this situation?



  1. Unless I'd find it unpleasant to sit next to the guy, I would probably just have worked in battery mode for a couple of hours (possibly "forgetting" to turn off the speakers and hope the Windows boot-up jingle woke him up :)). If the staff still hadn't gotten rid of him by the time the battery ran out, it wouldn't be a place I'd want to return to anyway.

    You know, Dave, I've actually been hoping for another one of your coffee shop anecdotes just to get an opportunity to share this vaguely related but brilliant TED talk by Steven Johnson:

  2. I would have just treated him like any other person, tried to plug around him, if necessary I'd have said, "Excuse me, sir, can I plug this in?" And heck, maybe I'd have offered to buy him a refill on his coffee. If he bothered me, I'd have put on headphones and gotten down to work on my laptop. I don't think I'd have been driven off, but then, I wasn't there...

  3. Come to think of it, if you had woken him up and offered him a coffee perhaps you'd have discovered he was a modern-day Joe Gould! Guess we'll never know... though having played Blackwell Convergence, maybe it's better that way :)

  4. I would have braced myself against the wall and moved his chair out a couple of inches so I could get plugged in.