Nomad Studio – Borders, Saturday Morning

February 18th, 2008

Borders is one of my favorite places to write. Not because it’s Borders, particularly, but because you can’t beat the ambience of a coffee shop inside a bookstore. On the one hand, you have all the olfactory and gustatory delights afforded by a full-service café – individual pots of French Press coffee, tea in a rainbow of flavors, the choice between paper cups and ceramic, the smell of freshly ground coffee beans, pastries, cookies, breakfast sandwiches, toffees, caramels… and of course coffee shop décor, which juxtaposes warm earth tones with large indirect patches of sunlight – all of which invites you to sink in, be cozy, and muse. On the other hand, you have a three-storey bookstore with everything you could want to tickle your imagination – there are books on finance and investing, science-fiction and fantasy, magazines on everything from new age spirituality to celebrity gossip to Goth subculture to how the affluent travel. The second floor is lofted – there’s a giant square missing, where you can look out and down into the first floor and the grand staircase, or look up at the beamed ceiling and skylights. The bookstore encourages the life of the mind, the café indulges your body, and the loft ensures that your thoughts can expand as much as they want and float around, unperturbed, up in the rafters. The skylights make it easy to relocate the good thoughts that grew too big and floated away.

I am not, of course, the only person who thinks this is a great place to work. It can be a real battle to find even a single chair. And you need more than a chair – if you plan to work you need a table, and an electric outlet for the laptop. Now here’s the tricky part: if the store is crowded, if the customers are too presumptuous, and if the baristas are cranky, they will announce via loud speaker that café seating is only for people who are actively consuming café food and beverages. We all buy something from the café, of course, but after an hour or so we’re just loitering. It’s a real gamble. If you stake your claim inside the café, it is possible that you can stay all day. But if the baristas kick you out, chances are good it will be during the busy part of the day, and you will not find another seat in the store – or quite possibly within a ten block radius.

Just outside the café there is additional seating – some would say better seating – in the form of leather-ish stuffed easy chairs. There are a dozen and a half of them spread around the clear glass half-wall that keeps patrons from falling off the edge of the loft. But there are only three little tables scattered amongst the easy chairs, and between the glass wall and giant windows, there are practically no outlets. Furthermore, if you’re outside the café, you aren’t bathing in the aroma of freshly ground coffee, nor are you benefiting from the almost subliminal sounds of baristas hard at work – the kind of ambient noise that occupies part of your mind, so the rest of it can maintain focus, uninterrupted, for hours. You can see the dilemma.

This morning I executed one of my fail-safe nomad studio strategies. I woke up early on a weekend, and arrived at Borders at 10:02 – just after the doors opened. I ran up to the second floor, took a few seconds to revel in having my choice of prime seats, then established myself in the very best one in the house. A stuffed easy chair WITH its own table, NEXT to an electric outlet for my laptop, pushed to within ONE INCH of the line on the floor that technically separates the café from the non-café seating.

I’m never leaving.

Entry Filed under: Les Poesies Quotidienne