I often work on my laptop in the coffee shop. For months, this meant that, whenever the battery ran low, if I were in the middle of something and needed to keep working, I had to relocate from my usual spot, to an alcove containing a power outlet. This was of course confusing for the staff, who would go searching for me in the usual spots and who would sometimes give up and conclude I had left, before realising that I was tucked away in the alcove recharging… A couple of months ago, a staff member had had enough of this, and out of irritation ordered me to use the power outlet located near my normal booth. Why, you might ask, hadn’t I been using this outlet previously? Well, because it’s right next to the ceiling. This is inconvenient enough for my friend G. Gollings, who is tall enough that he can stand on the booth and plug things in. I am considerably less vertically extended – in order to plug anything into that power outlet, I have to grab a footstool, wedge it precariously into the booth, balance even more precariously on top of it, lean against the wall, and stretch to my full height so that I can barely tip the plug into the outlet with the tips of my fingers.
This had never particularly seemed a good idea, until I was given to understand how inconvenient it has been for the staff here, when I hide out in the alcove and they can’t find me. Not wanting to lose the good graces of my coffee shop, I duly mastered my new routine of reorganising the coffee shop furniture and performing my high wire act every time I expected to need power.
Returning from Europe, sporting a sprained ankle that makes me even proppier than usual, I decided a change of routine was in order. So I brought in an extension cable and power board, plugged these in, and left them dangling down from the ceiling onto the top of my booth – a donated permanent fixture for the coffee shop, as the whole point is that I not have to risk life and limb to plug something in, every time I come in. The staff are in hysterics about this. For some reason, watching me pile furniture up and climb to the ceiling every day wasn’t much entertainment, but the thought of my actually modifying the environment so as to avoid the need for this maneouvre – that’s hilarious.
What’s even funnier is that one staff member came over and went, “Ohhh! So that’s why you’ve been doing that!” I looked blankly, and she said, “I’ve worked here five years, and I never realised there was an outlet up there!”
Now think about this for a minute. She’s been watching me come in here, pile furniture up, climb on it, hop off and settle down and work for a while, then reverse the whole process before I leave. She must have seen me do this dozens of times. But she has never known why I was doing it. How could she possibly have interpreted it? A nervous tic? Phobic ritual? Morning exercise routine?
I’m wondering if they’re all laughing so much at the extension cord out of relief – because they now finally understand what my whole bizarre routine has been about all along.