I was forced to admit that I might have a problem one recent Sunday morning when I tramped into my usual coffeeshop, The Black Medicine Coffee Company.
“Yes, we are now open,” proclaimed the barista, “I saw you hanging about earlier.”
It’s bad enough loitering around waiting for your favourite coffeeshop to open, but it’s even worse that the barista recognizes you (from across a busy street intersection, I might add) and correctly identifies your behaviour pattern as ‘Waiting for coffee.’ In fairness, I was only waiting 10 minutes – I’m not rudely impatient or anything like that.
The root cause of my problem is fairly simple. My flat on previously-mentioned dilapidated Council Estate has no internet. Nerdy introverted scientists moonlighting as freelance writers can not survive without internet access. Nerdy introverted scientists are also unable to survive without coffee. Hanging around the university library or computer labs is too depressing (and – since my recent graduate status/access privileges have elapsed – no longer feasible). There are a handful of internet cafes that I’ve got easy access to…but internet cafes are costly when you consider that their coffee is rather crap. It’s far better to go into a modern coffeeshop that has unlimited free wifi and set up camp there to work/surf the net.
My flat is where I sleep. It’s not a place I enjoy spending time in – too much plain beige. The coffeeshops are full of people, the background noise level is quite soothing (think of an introvert who wants to be around people, but doesn’t want too much direct interaction or too much din – ergo chit-chat, Motown and soft jazz). The smell of ground coffee powder, combined with the whirr of the presses is absolutely gorgeous. Black Med has character, comfort and stimulation that my flat does not.
Man, I go into Black Med every day for 2-3 hours at a time. If I’ve still got stuff to do then I’ll be migrating to another coffeeshop for an equal duration: Artisan Roast, Brew Lab or a Starbucks. Most of my “Edinburgh Living” is done in coffeeshops.
Which leads me to the diagnosis that I am in fact a Coffeeshop Hobo. A kind of vagrant who drifts between coffeeshops, seeming to lack a domestic base of their own. A Hobo who has the time and patience (and lack of dignity) to loiter around outside her usual haunts in the morning because she has no where else to go.
Life as an Espresso Nomad does has its advantages. The baristas of Newington know that I like my mochas with whipped cream but no marshmallows (‘cause I’m a vegetarian), that my morning usual is a double espresso. One day a barista accidentally heated up an extra bagel…then gave it to me for free because (i) I was the only regular in the shop at the time (ii) like a true hobo I evidently looked like I’d not had a decent meal in days.
Disadvantages of being a Coffeeshop Hobo? Well, I can spread out drinking an espresso over 2 hours…but then get distressed when a barista comes to clear away what seems to be an empty coffee cup (if it has any liquid still in it, then it ain’t empty. Trust me, I will even lick off foamy residues from the sides if I’ve got the time). Being British I don’t protest at this hasty clearance – I just mewl forlornly to myself.
The modern coffeeshop wifi can also be a source of stress. It’s usually slower than what you’d get at home, so downloading 5 MB PDFs of scientific papers is a torturous task. Caffeine jitters don’t help.
This particular chapter of my life is coming to an end in a few days. I’m saying goodbye to the freelance and casual part-time jobs and returning to a steady lab-based research lifestyle. For the most part I don’t regret this. I’ll miss the hissing of the French press as I work, however…