A month after I quit my corporate day job back in 2008 to work on our photography business full-time, Jeff and I moved to a fairly well-off, middle class suburb.
I was ECSTATIC to be working from home after years of working in a corporate office all day and editing photos at night, so the second the movers left, I grabbed my laptop and strutted out the door to go work at our local Starbucks for the very first time. I felt soooooo cool to be driving to our shopping center in the middle of the day…with my laptop…to work from a coffeehouse.
Isn’t that the modern American Dream?? To be one of those my-office-is-a-coffee-shop people? Now that I was free from my day job, I was one of them now.
At that moment, all of my ex-coworkers were probably at the weekly team meeting while I was off making my dreams come true. They would be grinning at the indecipherable corporate speak from our HR boss while secretly wishing they were me – cool, hip, and finally free.
I was sure of it.
But when I turned the corner into the shopping center, the parking lot was OVERFLOWING. It was FULL of midday shoppers. Since when is 10am on weekday busy? I thought.
When I walked into Starbucks, it was even worse. It was packed full of customers, the line for my drink took fifteen minutes, and I couldn’t find a seat among any of the twenty or so tables in the store.
I figured that it was just an oddly busy day, so I tried again later that week. Same story. Everywhere I turned, the large Starbucks was jammed with people – moms with strollers, students buried in books, writers at their laptops, suits pacing on their cell phones, and realtors. Oh the realtors. Why do they only come in packs of five??
After multiple tries, I finally discovered that the best time to work at our Starbucks was between 8:00pm and close – the exact same time that I used to work on our photography business when I had a corporate job.
Welcome to suburbia, I thought. Where EVERYBODY is an entrepreneur, a realtor, or a stay at home parent.
I wanted to run into the Starbucks and yell, “DON’T YOU PEOPLE HAVE JOBS!!” But that would have been a bit ironic…
A year later when my delighted husband quit his day job and packed up his laptop bag for his first real Coffeehouse Work Day, I didn’t have the heart to tell him that it was the worst time of day to go. An hour later he came back home dejected.
He didn’t feel special, he said. There are so many other people in our neighborhood that work from home too…
‘I know,’ I said, consoling him and patting him on the back. ‘We’re just normal.’
We thought the American Coffeehouse Dream would feel so different.
But we never gave up on that Coffeehouse Dream. After a while I learned some slick ninja maneuvers to grab my favorite tables at Starbucks and memorized every location of outlets and the best seats for great wi-fi in the store.
So even though that Starbucks always seemed to be full, I came to love that fullness. The point of working from Starbucks was to be away from our office and be surrounded by other warm bodies. By civilization. To hear movement and chatter and espresso machines around me. It keeps me focused. It keeps me inspired.
So maybe it’s not so much about feeling special. Maybe it’s about togetherness.
As if by showing up to my second office, I can feel like me and that insurance guy next to the creamers are making our dreams happen in our very own shared corporate space.
Which means that there are a lot of dreamers out there just like us. And that’s a pretty cool thing about a jam-packed Starbucks.