Once upon a time I had the perfect office-away-from-the-office. It was light and airy, with great big windows. It had squashy chairs and also roomy tables. It had espresso machines that filled the entire place with white noise that let me concentrate on the manuscript at hand. And, obviously, it had coffee by the bucketload.
And then a great blight came upon the land, and my coffeehouse was no more. (It’s still a coffeehouse. An evil, green-trimmed, mermaided coffeehouse. And I have not set foot inside since it re-opened in this godless guise.)
Last month a Diedrich’s wannabe (seriously—that’s how they describe themselves) opened two blocks away from me. It’s got great big windows. Great big west-facing windows. And no air conditioning. It has a charming patio. On the corner of a busy intersection. It has a lovely “living room” with a fireplace. But no windows.
The coffee is good. But it takes ages to serve up. Okay, they did open very recently, and I'm aware that a newbie coffeehouse needs time to get up to speed. But the other morning I went in and ordered a drink. There was a guy hanging around the register when I got there. When I crossed my arms over my chest and started tapping my foot, about five minutes after I’d placed my order, he was still hanging around. He, like I, was listening to the guy who was supposedly making my drink tell a story to the girl who was supposedly ringing people up. (Evidently multitasking is against the culture of this place.) When the guy finished his story, the girl meandered to the register and noticed the customer, still hanging around.
“Oh, are you still waiting for your large coffee?” she said. When he admitted that he was indeed, she got a cup, filled it, and slapped it on the counter.
Last week I went in and ordered a latte. That same girl asked if I wanted whipped cream on it. Normally the answer to that would be an unmitigated yes (whipped cream makes everything better), but I know how it goes now. Every time I order a latte, she rings up a mocha and asks if I want whipped cream.
“Oh, I wanted a latte,” I said cheerily.
“Changed your mind?” She was not pleased at having to press more buttons to change the order.
“Oh--I'm pretty sure I said latte.” I was very, very calm. After all, mistakes happen. No big deal.
“Didn’t she say mocha?” she called over her shoulder to the other two employees.
“No,” they chimed in unison. “She said latte.”
“I swear to God she said mocha.”
Okay, by this time I was getting a little cranky. I had had hopes that this place could be my new office-away-from-home (when I’m not at my beachfront office). But the heat! The exhaust! The idiots who work there!
A couple of weeks ago I rented a bike down at the beach and went for a ride along the Back Bay Loop. It’s a nice place to go for cool and melancholy thoughts, because it is a lonely and misty place. But you can’t feel all that melancholy really, because the biking makes the endorphins get going.
So there I was, making my way around the
It was quite some time before I realized that name is nothing but a big lie. I did not end up back on the bay. I ended up on a busy street. My pedal fell apart again in the middle of an intersection, and I had to wait for the cars to empty out of it so I could run over and pick up all the bits. Eventually I reached a major intersection that seemed to indicate I was in a different city altogether—how I managed that I really couldn’t say—but I didn’t care, because I saw something much more important.
A coffee place.
I locked up the bike, put the pedal bits in a pocket of my backpack, and hurtled up to the counter. Behind it stood a man with curly, shiny, gelled shoulder-length black hair; his shirt was open one button further than most guys would have it; and he spoke with an exotic accent. Because I am very slow on the uptake, I smiled to myself at what a ladykiller this guy imagines himself to be. By the time he had explained to me about the faaaaaaaabulous bike path I could take to get back where I needed to go, and asked me what my beautiful name was so he could write it on my cup, I decided maybe he’s actually not such a ladykiller.
I sat in a corner, drinking my cool and refreshing drink (which was prepared almost instantly), and pulled out my revising. The wall I faced was entirely windows. There was a nice crossdraft from the two doors. The espresso machines were very, very white noisy.
It was perfect.
Well, almost. It is like 15 miles away. (On the plus side, it’s just down the street from my beachfront office.)
But the way I figure it, finding an office-away-from-the-office is kind of like falling in love. When it’s right, it’s right. Clickability is a rare thing, and when you find it, you can’t let a few extra miles keep you apart. Especially if there's coffee involved.
* Do you know that Monkees song? “You Just Might Be the One?” It’s a good one—go listen to it!