February 9, 2010

Why do people go to cafés to sit alone and work on their laptops?

To be with other people.


ricpic said...

In the years I lived in the city (that's Manhattan to NYers) I used to think of it as The Big Room. You couldn't really be lonely because there were always people, be they in a cafe or on the streets. You were a face in the crowd. And that was comforting. And even when you went back to your apartment or your room The Big Room was always out there, waiting for you to return to its streets with people. Some live their whole lives in that dream. And it's enough.

MadisonMan said...

I go to cafes to work because the internet is faster than it is at home, although lately I've been going to the Sequoia branch of the Public Library. Barriques on Monroe has had patchy internet the last few times I've gone for wine and internet.

Scott M said...
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Scott M said...

To be seen...and possibly laid.

rhhardin said...

Why do people go to cafés to sit alone and work on their laptops?

Those are people without dogs.

Ann Althouse said...

"To be seen...and possibly laid."

And yet you could sit in cafés for hours a day for 20 years and never have it turn into even one night of pleasure. I know I did!

Scott M said...

And yet you could sit in cafés for hours a day for 20 years and never have it turn into even one night of pleasure. I know I did!

And yet that violates Hawkings (I think) 3rd Law Of Female Sexuality which says something along the lines of a woman being able to get "a piece of cake" at nearly any time, any where. The inverse of this law, as all men know, is that men cannot and must work for it.

A disturbing number of guys that don't have to work for it are either gay or Christian Bale...or both...lol

WV - "heluntsi" - Helen Hunt trapped in Rwanda

bearing said...

This is a subject that is very close to my heart. A coffee shop (or even better, a restaurant) with free wifi and plenty of electric outlets is just about my favorite place in the world, at least if I want to be alone and to concentrate. In pre-wireless-internet days when I was in college, this was my favorite place to study.

One reason - small isolated noises in a "quiet" environment -- pencils tapping, gum-chewing, faint music from someone's headphones -- drive me up the wall, but loud jumbled background noise is fine.

But part of it is surely that I am relaxed and recharged by being an anonymous face in a crowd, free to watch people and be watched but with no one making demands on me and me not asking any of them.

I am a homeschooling mother of four children under ten, and you can bet I take the opportunity to sit by myself in a coffee shop every chance I get (which is about once a week thanks to my husband who knows what I need to keep me sane), although for the next 6 months or so "alone" will have to broaden to include "with my nursing baby."

Wince said...

And yet you could sit in cafés for hours a day for 20 years and never have it turn into even one night of pleasure. I know I did!

Let's be honest, for a host of reasons it's pretty difficult for most normal people to have "one night of pleasure," even if you do get laid.

If anything, the memory tends to embellish the experience, which ironically extends a pleasure that never quite existed while it was supposed to be happening.

kjbe said...

Especially, this time of year, a change of scenery is nice.

Chip Ahoy said...

To meet the most iiiiiiin-teresting people doing the most iiiiiiin-teresting things.

Scott M said...


One can never go far wrong quoting Bugs Bunny.

rhhardin said...

Social moment at McDonald's 20 years ago, working math on a napkin, on hearing Joan Baez on the muzak system

[to random nearby girl] Do you know who that is?

girl: No.

me: Joan Baez.

girl: I don't know her.

Links didn't work then.

former law student said...

Madison Man solves the problem: Laptoppers should go to the library if they want to be surrounded by people without being required to interact. Coffeehouse laptoppers stake out their own tables, reducing the capacity of a 40 seat place to ten.

Sit with someone else, people! Make a friend! Maybe even go home with that person!

A friend of a friend, here temporarily from Europe in the pre-WiFi days, 40 years old or so, complained (or bragged?) that she could never, ever, open a book in a coffee house without some guy trying to chat her up. "I see you're reading blah blah blah. Have you read any of his stuff before? Blah blah blah."

I do not know what happened in the professor's case. Probably she always looked busy.

blogging cockroach said...

but professor what would you have done
if i came scurrying up when you were
sitting alone for all those years...
i bet you would have let out a low


and squashed me with your shoe or
maybe grabbed me in a paper napkin
and whacked me with a book and
complained to the management
what's that cockroach doing on my
table and if the waiter had said
trying to strike up a conversation
you probably would have gotten even
more p o'd at his snide attitude
altho i like to think you would have
thought it was funny if he said it
the right way
anyway now we have wi fi and i have
been able to strike up a conversation
with you without getting whacked
at least by the heel of your shoe

bagoh20 said...

"And yet you could sit in cafés for hours a day for 20 years and never have it turn into even one night of pleasure. I know I did!"

I was there for you, but I was wearing shorts.

traditionalguy said...

Pick-ups on a University campus are not as easy. I blame the anti-tobacco crusade. The smokers could fraternise around the cigarette breaks, and then that was gone with the wind. Another secret was to meet at the library when the final call for checking out books and leaving made a crowd of people gather at the checkout desk, who were all free to go somewhere else anyway.

former law student said...

I was there for [Althouse], but I was wearing shorts.

I was out in the field, wearin' mah breeks:


Beldar said...

"Why do people go to cafés to sit alone and work on their laptops?"

They do it to be alone with other people.

Misery loves company.

Trooper York said...

Lonely people are lonely in the midst of a crowd. Not a starling insight but a truism none the less.

In my favorite wine and cheese bar there is this one guy who sits alone every night with his laptop or some papers. Very polite guy. Asshole that I am, when I go into a place I get to know everyone within the first ten minutes. The wife and I always give him a warm hello but he is very shy and not much of a conversationalist so we leave him to his work or his thoughts. But he seems to appreiciate being noticed.

He invited us to his play. He seems to be some hot shit playwright/off broadway/actor dude. That was very nice of him.

Of course I don't go to stuff unless they blow shit up or it has hores or aliens or zombies in it so we didn't make it.

But you can always be nice.

Most everyone has a Roy Obrison song playing in their head while they are sitting alone at the cafe.

Trooper York said...

Sorry. I mean Roy Orbison!

traditionalguy said...

The sad story that Our Professor relates in the comments shows to go you that writing pick-up lines on the palm of your hand and reading them surreptitiously can be a turn off. Personally, I don't believe that a woman with her charm ever lacked a man chasing her.

Anonymous said...

I think they do it to be someplace special where they'll be catered to with a steaming cuppo coffee or tea and get away from their usual 2 walls.
It doesn't matter if the place is full of other people or not. In fact, I think they enjoy it more when they've got the place to themselves.

bagoh20 said...

"An IPhone can't fall asleep leaning on your shoulder, breathing in sweet little puffs, closed eyes so near you can count the lashes."

But they have an off button and a shinny new version comes out every year better than the one before.

Anonymous said...
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