You hear a lot these days about working remotely.
As companies tighten their belts more and more, especially news companies, they find it economical to lose the big, sprawling offices and move into smaller, tighter quarters. This, of course, means less space for employees.
So employees are being asked to work remotely. Some outfits call it hoteling — smaller offices with desk space for drop-ins, only. No old fat guy sitting at a desk filled with weird memorabilia: stuffed piranhas, tiny Cadillacs, skeletons hanging on the bulletin board, a raven perched on the cubicle wall.
AOL was the first I noticed. When they launched their hyper-local operations, they had no offices for the new employees. They were urged to work in the community. This meant in coffee shops and diners, I guess. What it really meant, of course, was the people worked from home.
These days, I work from home. I guess that’s working remotely, by some standards.
Except for Friday. Friday, for the first time in my wired life, I took my laptop to the coffee shop in the Barnes & Noble store in Deptford.
It’s pretty much the last time I will venture to the area around the Deptford Mall this season. Traffic gets ridiculous and I have no desire to be out in it.
So, Friday afternoon I grabbed a large coffee — Venti, I think, in Starbucks lingo — and sat down amidst the people, to write this column.
The very first thing I noticed was almost all the laptops here are Macs. There are two women behind me working on their laptops, plugged into the wall. Both of them seem to be doing additional paperwork as they type away. There’s a guy at my 1 o’clock position who just stopped doing work on his computer to text someone on his phone.
At 12 o’clock, there’s a young woman reading from her laptop and writing stuff down — yes, with a pen!
At 11 o’clock, there’s a guy with a crunched-up, wide-brimmed leather hat and a ponytail. Before he sat down, he moved the two chairs around at his table. I don’t know why; they look the same to me.
At my 9 o’clock, there’s another young woman with a laptop open, doing something while she reads “The Scarlett Letter.”
There are even some people engaged in homework-like activity — I suppose they’d call it studying — without a computer in sight.
I did see two people I know — they work here, though, so it’s not like I was surprised to see them.
And, most amazing of all, there are actually tables where the two or more people sitting there are — wait for it — talking.
Yes, I know. It surprised me, too. (What didn’t surprise me is the number of people at tables in this coffee shop without a cup or any other sign that they have actually made a purchase here.
Does any of this remote work I’m doing reveal anything about me or the people who surround me? I suppose if I sat here and observed them patiently, I might learn something about them. But here, right now, I got nothing.
My favorites, of course, are the people sitting across from each other, saying not a word, as they do whatever it is they’re doing, on their cellphones.
At least, at home, I can talk to someone on my phone.
But now that I have finished this column, I feel uncomfortable. I feel as though I should pack up and move along. There are plenty of empty tables, so I’m not really taking up space someone else could be using, but I still feel jumpy, like: You’re done, get out.
Besides, as I look up from my keyboard now and then, I remember this is a coffee shop IN A BOOKSTORE, and there are all these books and some of them, I swear, seem to be calling my name.