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December 28, 2003

Home Is Where No One Else Is

Posted by Mike on December 28, 2003 4:35 PM

There's been an embarrassment of riches in wireless connectivity in the 'hood lately. Cooper's, the generally pleasant (more on that later, once we position "pleasant" and "coffee shop" in relationship to each other) and mostly undiscovered coffee shop down on Stark St. has an unheralded access point (it feels like it's connected to a sloooow consumer-grade line, though, and the owners prefer the mocha-n-laptop crowd stay away between 11 and 1), and Powell's on Hawthorne has one, too (haven't tried it out). The Starbucks a block away from there has a T-Mobile access point (but it costs money). And there are always the Personal Telco nodes bobbing in and out of view, depending on where I am.

Ed's been enjoying a similar scavenger hunt for bandwidth in his own locale.

The problem with looking for good coffee shops with wireless connectivity is the whole "coffee shop" part, though. For instance:

If I've got to go to the bathroom, am I going to leave my laptop sitting out at my table for thieves or the merely clumsy to take/ruin? No. So it's getting packed up and it's coming with me.

Cell phone talkers. At their worst in coffee shops. Gotta be heard above the espresso machine. My primitive ape brain responds to other primates acting out about their status (reflected in intonation or the mere angle at which their head is cocked), too, and makes me want to jump up on the table and yell "ook ook!" or perhaps lick them on the forehead in a show of dominance. No way to get work done while I'm struggling with millions of years of our common heritage as monkeys. It doesn't matter that no one thinks a cell phone confers status anymore, because people have mannerisms when they use cell phones that originated when cell phones did confer status. In other words, the inward turn of the head, the outward cock of the foot, and slow rotation around the trunk all mean "notice me! I have wealth and riches enough to talk on the phone anywhere, and a life important enough to require this ability." Ten years of cellphone nonverbal cues + ten million years of social evolution = if I look at you acting like that any longer, I will bite you and take your woman.

Dogs. Cooper's is "dog friendly," and there seems to be at least one loud dog exhibitionist buzzing through there with a curious, panting, too-damn-big-for-the-city mutt per hour. Working with even a relatively well-restrained dog around is impossible. At least, I'll admit that when an unfamiliar dog head suddenly thrusts itself into my space to smell my crotch, I have a hard time blowing it off in favor of thinking up a synonym for "enterprise." And in a dog-friendly place, jumping up and yelling "What the fuck!" while splashing a hot mexi-mocha all over the mutt to teach it a valuable lesson becomes my problem. That's fucked up, but enough dog owners are already o.k. with forcing me to dodge their beast's poo on the sidewalk that there's no way most of them are going to think there's anything wrong with letting little Muffin or Daisy or Baxter stick his snout in my pants.

Cost. Staying around long enough for only one cup of coffee is hardly worth it. I usually go for two rounds. And I like the fancy drinks. $3.50 per grande mexi-mocha = $7/day just to be able to soak in the ambience of using a computer wirelessly five blocks from my home.

Music. Can't control the music in a coffee shop. Headphones are an option, but at that point, I'm paying $7 to completely tune out where I am and act as if I'm in my own living room. And if I reach down into my pants and give my balls a good scratching, the smiles coming from behind the counter are going to become chilly or at least strained in very little time. I've known plenty of coffee shop employees. They notice things. Good regulars = militantly normal people who come out of the bathroom smelling like hand soap. Bad regulars = crotch scratchers, poets who share their work with the help, and anyone who's ever dated anyone who works there but does so no longer.

But I loves my coffee. So the answer is simple. I've already got a fast broadband connection (1.5 MB down, more than enough bandwidth), I've got a decent stereo, and I've got a wireless access point. So:

$50 down at the local Fred Meyer got me a Krups Bravo. Another $7 (that's one day of coffee at Cooper's) got me espresso beans to last a few weeks. A few more bucks gets me plenty of Abuelita chocolate to last a good long while. In a mere ten days, the thing has paid for itself.

Is it as good as what I can get at Cooper's? No. The steamed milk lacks that special creamy texture, and the steam (as opposed to pump) action of the Bravo means my spit will stay brown for only an hour or so before normal salivation and water intake return it to normal.


Fred Meyer. Wonder if that's related to Meijer's of West Michigan (run by Fred Meijer)? Hmmm....

Posted by: Ed at December 28, 2003 5:11 PM

Common Grounds on upper Hawthorne has wifi as well. As does Tiny's down on, uh, 11th or 12th just north of Hawthorne. Leaving one's laptop sort of depends on where you are. I have no problem leaving my laptop on the table (well, in passw'd sleep mode) at Tiny's, but then I know at least two of the people that work there.

Technically, there's wifi on the corner of a nearby house set up to point into the Stumptown on Division, but I only have any luck picking it up in the far corner near the bathroom, and even then sometimes not at all.

I keep seeing people at downtown Stumptown with laptops, and swear I've heard ppl talking wifi in there, but I have no idea if it's there or not.

Posted by: The One True b!X at December 28, 2003 6:27 PM