The worst part about working from home is that it’s so quiet!
Take the other morning for example. My house was screaming it was so silent. My husband Brian was at work, the pets were asleep and I was on my own with nothing but the clicking of the keys on my laptop to disturb the quiet.
I surrendered and drove to a nearby coffee shop. The background noise and atmosphere take me to a mental place where productivity flows; and if productivity is uncharacteristically stymied, I can always eavesdrop.
I ordered a cup of coffee, seated myself by the fireplace and typed happily away.
I was clicking keys and sipping coffee when an obese man huffed and puffed his way to the table immediately beside me. His health was so poor that carrying his Kindle and a cup of coffee across the café caused him to flop onto a chair and gasp for breath.
This was more than background noise. It was a breathy intrusion.
“Good morning,” he bid me.
Now comes the sticky part. I want to be in a café to work so there’s background noise. I don’t want to have actual conversations.
I also don’t want to be a jerk, so I wished him a good morning without making eye contact – a southerner’s code for yes-I-see-you-and-think-you’re-probably-lovely-but-I’m-very-busy-with-something-very-important-good-day.
“It’s bad weather out there,” he continued.
Apparently, no one ever explained the code to him.
“Yep,” I said noncommittally and stared hard at my screen.
He then went on to explain – at great and unnecessary length – about how he wished that the impending winter weather would hit before he had to get out of bed, that he had just driven his college-aged son to the local tech school and that he thought he’d sit in the café and read until he could pick his son up from class three hours later.
I wasn’t getting out of this one anytime soon.
Deadline? What’s a deadline? I’m sure my editors will understand that I couldn’t meet mine because I had to chat with a lonely stranger in a café.
I considered moving to another table, but didn’t want to be rude. Instead, I asked him what he was reading.
He sailed into a monologue about the book, the series it’s part of, the author, the author’s other series, other series in the genre, the genre, books in general and the author’s dog.
When he got up to order a bowl of soup, I made a break for it.
The irony of the situation was not lost on me. I wanted some noise so I could work, but found that there was too much noise on this occasion.
Perhaps there’s something to be said for the sound of silence after all.
Nora Blithe is the author of the syndicated humor column “Life Face First.” Read her blog online at doorinface.com or contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.