1. Poor cell phone etiquette. Perhaps she has not noticed that the room is otherwise quiet, that the rest of us are typing madly and importantly on our keyboards, and she is the lone nattering voice, drowning out even The Bangles’ “Manic Monday”. Because I can’t help but overhear, I must also report that her conversations are not even interesting. As a connoisseur of eavesdropping, I know when something is worth recording (i.e. jotting down in my omnipresent notebook or laptop), and her loud, monotonous conversation bores me.
2. Failure to act in the best interest of others. This woman has no sense of community. For proof I offer the following scenario: It was a mild-weathered Saturday afternoon and those of us who appreciate power sources for our laptops over hiking or cycling were indoors, typing away. Logging on, I found that I couldn’t connect to the Internet. Not a big deal – I should be deeply ensconced in the 27th version of my novel anyway, not checking to see if one of my lit sisters has sent me a witty piece of correspondence. I have also come to the point in my life when a few minutes away from the Equifax alert system doesn’t send me into a cold panic. And yet, perversely, I kept trying to connect. Then a fellow caffeine addict leaned over and said, “Are you connected?” “Nope,” I reported, trying for cheerful. A third patron professed unconnectivity, and voila! We had a problem on our hands. The manager, once alerted, looked doubtfully at the WiFi thingamajig and said, “Is anyone connected?” And SHE, the woman sighing importantly across from me at this very moment, said, “I’m online.” Liar! It was impossible. We – the disenfranchised three – pressed her: “Really? You can refresh your page? You can send and receive email?” She gave us this very annoyed glance and said, “I’m sorry. I’m very busy. I don’t have time to talk right now.” Talk? We didn’t want to talk. We wanted validation that the Internet was down. “Well, as long as one person is online…” the manager said, trailing away to other responsibilities. I wanted to wrestle away the woman’s iMac, forcing her to acknowledge that she was looking at an Excel file and NOT the Internet, but I took a deep breath and let it go. Breathe in: citizen of the world. Breathe out.
3. General selfishness and display of coffeehouse bullying. So this morning, inexplicably, all the tables were taken. I shuffled in with my laptop case and noticed that one table was littered with food wrappers and an untidy stack of newspapers. “Excuse me – do you know if anyone is sitting here?” I ask the man next to me. “There was someone there, but I guess he left. That was maybe ten minutes ago.” Aha. I stacked up the papers, brushed the crumbs onto the plate, and prepared to set myself up, when SHE appeared, swooping out of nowhere. “I’m sorry, I’ve been waiting for that table,” she announced. Waiting where? In the bathroom? At another table on the other side of the house? It’s not like we’re in a gym, signing up for time on a treadmill. It’s every woman for herself here. It’s catch as catch can. It’s snooze or loose. So back off, lady. While you were staring at this empty table for ten minutes, I made my move. I will now proceed to type beautiful prose and get on with my life, thank you very much. Except – I didn’t do that. It was like being in grade school all over again. I caved to the bully. Here’s my lunch money – er, coveted seat near the window. While I was standing there not sure how to respond (be gracious, be eloquent, Paula), a man at the facing table announced, “Hey, I’m leaving now. You can have my spot.” Now we face each other over our laptop screens and she jots important notes on a napkin and I type this, my small form of revenge.
Paula Treick DeBoard