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Paint thinner, hurricanes and the trouble with writing in public

July 3, 2010

Here’s an email I just sent to a local establishment because of an unfortunate incident of epic proportions that took place yesterday:

Hey there!

I’m a regular patron at [Coffe Shop] – I come once or twice a week to write. I’ve been doing this for several months now and I love it. You guys have nice food, great tea, and the kind of atmosphere that always keeps the day interesting.

Yesterday, however, the day got a little too interesting. I was in the back room with a few other people, all writing and eating, when an employee came in (I’m sorry I don’t have his name – jumpy dude with a beard). He had a rag soaked in paint thinner and proceeded to CLIMB into the booths we were already sitting in, to rub the paint thinner on the walls. Then he said he was going to have to do the tables. We complained politely about the fumes and asked if he could maybe work on this project at another time.

This is when he decided it would help to open a window. He then went outside and banged and pried at a window that was a) painted shut and b) screwed shut. He then came INSIDE and started banging and prying at the window.

With lots of tenacity, he managed to open the window. A window without a screen, at a time the remnants of a hurricane are blowing through town.

So we, along with our food, are left in a room with a rag soaked in paint thinner (surely, not allowed by the health department) and an open window, blowing wind, bugs, water and debris onto our laptops and paperwork.

Not cool.

We did ask the barista for help in getting the bearded dude to leave us alone, and he tried valiantly, but no go.

Anyway, I love [Coffee Shop]. I want to keep writing there. But surely you can understand one cannot actually get anything done (or keep food down) when forced to huff paint thinner and fight back gale force winds.

I just wanted to let you know…

thanks so much,

Not a lot of work got done yesterday, and that sucks because to go to the coffee shop to write I have to have a nurse in the house for my youngest son, a babysitter for my older two kids, and about a million dollars in cash to pay the babysitter. I can’t just pick up and run out to a coffee shop and write everyday. It’s an adventure in planning and scheduling and getting about a hundred things situated. So when I get to my favorite spot and I’m accosted by a bearded dude LITERALLY jumping in the booth with paint thinner, I find it distressing (though mildly hilarious).

Now my mind is whirling around in the way that it does on a Saturday morning and I’m thinking, hey, if I spend $10 on food and tea every time I’m at the coffeeshop, and I manage to get there twice a week, that’s a decent amount of money I spend at this place. I have a lot of writer friends who also spend this kind of money at coffee shops every week so they can work. What if we all banded together, threw our monthly coffee shop money into a pot and rented out a small, all bills paid, office space? Is that crazy talk?

We could each be responsible for bringing in our own table or desk or bean bag chair, we could have a dorm fridge with drinks and snacks. We could even all agree to get those Internet sticks for our laptops so we don’t have to split a wi-fi bill.

I’m sure there are negatives to this plan, but the idea of still being able to write with my friends and not have to face paint thinner or hurricanes, well, it’s pretty appealing.

Do you know any writers who do this?

We could put posters on the wall! And get a lava lamp! And have our own espresso machine! And a bookshelf with a dictionary on it! And a fake bearskin rug! And I could start wearing an eyepatch! And we could solve Intergalactic mysteries in our spare time! And we could call ourselves the Secret Society of Writers Against Paint Thinner!


Who’s in?

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