2 Jones Ladies, Jan Needle & Leagues of Laptop Hoboes--Reb MacRath


Definition: Laptop hoboes tap into free Wi-Fi at coffeeshops or restaurants, commandeering tables with power outlets and sometimes parking for hours on end.


There is no truth to the rumor that author Julia Jones has said she'd rather die than be a laptop hobo in any MacDonald's or Starbucks. But we can imagine the aversion of AE's most elegant writer to the thought of writing that way. On the other hand, Wendy H Jones plugs in anywhere when on the road--a trait she shares with such great vagabonds as the late Jan Needle and Hunter S Thompson. It's a well-known fact around the globe that Wendy was born wearing vagabond shoes.

I admire the works of both Joneses. But, as a longtime hobo who loves to work in cafes, I share Wendy's penchant for working in the thick of things, even in the trenches while emotional mortar lights up the day's sky. Through the years I've ridden the digital rails in San Francisco, Atlanta, Charlotte, Portland, Seattle and Tucson. And I've come to divide laptop hoboes into two main groups:

HCLHs: High-Class Laptop Hoboes: remote workers escaping from their home confinement...writers on the road...students between classes...They pay for the café space they occupy and don't outstay their welcome.

NCLHs: No-Class Laptop Hoboes: either homeless or without home Wi-Fi, they may sit hogging their tables all day, even using multiple outlets for different devices, all the while nursing a cup of long cold coffee.



True king-of-the-road hoboes treat free Wi-Fi as  a blessing and abide by a few basic rules: 

1) They limit their stays to a couple of hours and free their tables for rush hour traffic.
2) If they need to stay longer on a given day, they'll check with management and order something else after the first hour or two.
3) They come prepared with long extension cords, noise reduction headphones, and/or multi-outlet surge protectors to share with nearby needy hoboes.
4) They tip well and treat the staff with absolute respect.


Now, what about the businesses? They won't last long if overrun by all-day squatting hoboes. Are they entirely defenseless? Not if they set and insist on some rules.

1) Best of all is to set up a system allowing Wi-Fi access with a code printed on receipts for purchases over a certain amount. 
2) Set a time limit for access--an hour or two seems reasonable. After that, require an additional purchase for an additional code. Honor system: 2 sessions per day. This policy is enforced at the University of Arizona and several cafes I've frequented. 
3) If purchase codes aren't possible, then have staff enforce shop policy: Sir/ma'am, no disrespect intended. But we have a limited number of seats and you've been here for seven hours nursing that bottle of water...


One final takeaway.  Always get to know the staff and let them know if you're writing a book, not parking at a table to play computer games. Let them know how grateful you are for their help and...


This is my report.

P.S. If you're a laptop hobo, stand up and be counted here. I'll lay money on the list including Peter Leyland, Sandra Horn, Debbie Bennett, and Bill (Call me Gypsy) Kirton. More?

P.S. 2: Here is the link to Wendy's complementary post:

Welcome to MacRathWorld, if you like premium blends of mystery, action, and suspense. From Caesar's Rome to Seattle today, the twists fly at the speed of night. If you're unfamiliar with my work, I recommend starting with the new Seattle BOP mysteries. Here's the link to my AuthorPage on Amazon for a detailed look at the variety of 'rides' in my amusement park.



Susan Price said…
I've written in pubs, on ferries, in stone-age ruins on Shetland, in service stations, on beaches -- but always on paper, with a pen. I think it's less faff than carting a laptop around, and retyping it into the computer later gives me a chance to rewrite. But very interested to hear from our AE hobos!
Reb MacRath said…
Susan, thanks for introducing me to the wonderful word 'faffing'. After reading your comment, I see that a new category may be called for: Laptopless Writing Hoboes? The ranks would include Jack London, Jack Kerouac, Hemingway, and on and on.

Popular posts

A Few Discreet Words About Caesar's Penis--Reb MacRath

A Glittering Gem of Black, Gothic Humour: Griselda Heppel is intrigued by O Caledonia by Elspeth Barker

The Splendid Rage of Harlan Ellison - Umberto Tosi

Little Detective on the Prairie

Misogyny and Bengali Children’s Poetry by Dipika Mukherjee