It is time to get territorial, stand our ground; the battle has started and the battle lines are being marked out in cappuccino froth.
For centuries there’s been a quiet tolerance for the pained writer in the corner of the cafe, sitting there with the dregs of cold coffee he occasionally swills around and gulps to maintain the illusion he is still a paying customer. There was an unspoken understanding – you don’t tell us your crazed tale of woe and we won’t tell you to get a proper job.
But then there was a most alarming paradigm shift, the maverick ‘creatives’ have started to outnumber us. Entering a cafe now is like walking into a NASA control room where endless screens light up faces, but these people aren’t extrapolating the trajectory of a Mars’ mission probe, they’re writing a blog; take a peek over their shoulder – it’s not a very good blog, is it?
It’s hard to know who to blame for this balance being upset; the finger has long been pointed at JK Rowling, who tippy-tapped out a draft novel on an old-fashioned typewriter and inspired a generation. Unfortunately that generation believe ‘a good idea’ and ‘a genuine talent’ could be replaced with ‘a latte’ and ‘a biscotti’.
Maybe it was the free-for-all pit the internet created – now the only requirement for a ‘creative’ seems to be owning opposable thumbs. Then of course came the killer blow to civility and conversation – Wi-Fi. Why sit at home and not work when you can sit in a cafe and not work instead? Struggling to find inspiration in your office? Think that sitting in a crowded room with an espresso machine which makes a noise akin to a Victorian steam engine will help? Then I can assure you that whatever it is you’re doing, it is not that important. You don’t see neurosurgeons remotely guide a medical team in a far-flung operating theatre by webcam while sipping on a Frappuccino, do you? No, well there’s a reason for that.
A few of us have been mumbling under our breath for years about this; we’re sick of your ‘disturbed glances’ just because we choose the cafe venue to have a rendezvous and a chat rather than use it as a dedicated media hub. Who do you think you are, spreading papers, files and setting lethal traps in the guise of a power cable you’ve plugged in to illicitly syphon the cafe’s energy supply?
As the once barely-audible mutterings grow louder, the cafes are starting to take note. While the perpetrators may feel they’re good business for cafes, owners disagree. Do you want to know what they call you? Laptop hobos. Think about that while you eek out a double espresso for an entire morning.
- It is NOT okay to spread yourself out over two tables, with a laptop on one and a pile of hi-tech detritus on the other.
- We are not your disruptive work colleagues, so don’t glare at us as if we were.
- The errant toddler who just nudged your table as you were about to click ‘Publish’ has just as much of a right to be there as you do.
- You are not being quiet if we can hear your hipster friend’s tinny synth band blasting from your earphones.
- We certainly don’t give a hoot when we hear you bellow on Skype that your latest post is ‘gonna go viral’, or ‘the gallery expressed an interest’.
- If it is okay for you to plug-in your iGadget, then is it okay for me to plug-in my toaster? I’m starting to feel peckish and I am not paying that much for a panini.
American coffee giants Starbucks has reportedly started to limit or discourage laptop use. Other US cafes are following suit with various tactics including covering power sockets – once your battery is dead, it’s time to toddle off back from whence you came. More draconian measures include ‘flicking off the Wi-Fi’, or the slightly more measured approach of changing the Wi-Fi password every few hours. Leading the charge in Europe are London’s Ziferblat which has apparently taken the somewhat unorthodox approach of charging customers by the minute, rather than by what they choose to drink. But top hats off to The Barn in Berlin which is setting a new gold standard in zero tolerance of annoyance. Trying to offer the best for the coffee connoisseur, they’ve put a ban on music, dogs, prams, pushchairs, mobile phone ringtones, loud phone calls and media – apart from newspapers. There are dedicated tables set aside for laptops away from the main area – the cafe equivalent of the naughty step – BRAVO!
The trend is spreading, and hooray to that! Now I’m off for a cup of Earl Grey tea.