May 15, 2011
It’s a cloudy, rainy morning here in northern New Jersey, but that didn’t stop me from dragging myself out of bed, packing up my laptop, and driving five miles to what has become my home away from home, our local Panera Bread. I’m not quite sure how it happened, but over the past two years, I’ve become a regular here, coming at least three times a week to start my work day holed up in a booth with an iced tea (free refills!) and a Pumpkin Muffie (muffin top). On most days, I exchange pleasantries with the other regulars, including the group of retirees who meet for an hour or so every morning except Sunday, and the transplanted Brooklynite who brings her own matzoh year-round and often is accompanied by her husband, daughter, and adorable granddaughter (Hi, Sophie!). We’re a community of people who, in lieu of being tethered to an office, have put down roots here.
At any given time, I will find a dozen or so people working intently at their computers, while others meet with colleagues. I’ve listened in as pharmaceutical reps report to their supervisors, tutors teach their students, and door-to-door salespeople strategize ways to gain new customers for their products. This particular Panera Bread actually has a community room, where businesses and other groups can schedule meetings. Fortunately, the place is large enough that even when there’s a meeting in progress, there’s still plenty of space to hang out.
I did most of the work on Basketball Belles here, including almost every revision (there were a lot of them!) and my review of the galleys. For some reason, it was the perfect environment for working on a picture book. I also start most of my blogs for I.N.K. at Panera. Having worked in an office for some 25 years, the hum of background noise seems conducive to a certain kind of creativity. I definitely need more quiet when I do my intense nonfiction writing, but the less research-oriented work seems very well suited for this place. It’s more fun than a library (and you can eat), and the level of distraction seems just right.
For their part, the people who work here seem perfectly happy to humor those of us who threaten to outstay our welcomes. Yes, the WiFi connection automatically shuts off after 30 minutes during the lunch rush, but I usually leave by then. Otherwise, the workers chat with you just long enough to show that they appreciate your business, and then leave so you can go back to your computer. Whoever’s training them has got it just right. When I stopped by for my birthday lunch on Friday—I had to give in and finally try the seasonal lobster salad sandwich, which was extraordinary!—my favorite cashier gave me a free birthday iced tea and one of the workers on the floor brought me a birthday cookie.
At a time when gasoline prices are pushing $4.00 per gallon, I am well aware that I could get my iced tea fix at the Starbucks that’s within walking distance of my home, rather than taking a 10-mile round trip here three or four times a week. But there’s something about Starbucks that’s off-putting. The iced tea is more expensive, the refills aren’t free unless you register your Starbucks card, and the atmosphere just feels too elitist to me. I’d rather sit here in my booth surrounded by the other regulars in my office away from home.
|Subscribe to RSS|
Misspelling of the Month
I don't often turn to Chinese restaurant menus for misspellings because they can be easy targets. But this one invented a new word that has a bit of charm. Quite accidentally, it's the second "steak"-related Misspelling of the Month in a row. So thanks to Empire Szechuan Village on Seventh Avenue, South, in New York City for this meaty mistake. (Of course, "waterchestnut" should be plural and two words as well.)
Click on the photo to see a larger image.