October 2008


Written by Lori Thiessen

In a world that loves and hates labels, I thought I’d offer a few sub- categories for the café commuter. The very name café commuter is Gregg Taylor’s and my own offering into the nifty moniker hat. Other names that are floating around are nomad, neo-bedouin and road warrior.

Despite the fact that the Linnaean-esque taxonomy for this new and evolving being has not yet been formalized, I would like to offer my own observations of some species under the domain name of: café commuter.

  1. The Table Hog (Hogus tabulus) – a café commuter who likes to spread their stuff all around so that more than one table or chair is in use, and they get quite cranky if you try to point this out to them.
  2. The Cell Phone Squawker (iamsoimportantus) – a café commuter who likes to speak loudly and at length when either receiving calls or initiating them. These creatures are difficult to ignore and irritating in the extreme, especially in a flock.
  3. The Electric Sentinel (outletus gardium) – a café commuter who will not graciously share one of the few outlets available in the café or coffee shop. Personally, I’ve rarely run into this subspecies but I’ve had reports of its existence.
  4. The Cheap Skate ( miserium spendlittien) – someone who brings in their own food to café or coffee shop and only buys one small coffee, but sits in the place for hours.
  5. The Garbage Leaver (detritus letalone)- someone who insists on believing that the barista is really Mom in disguise and will leave mounds of dirty plates, cups, napkins etc. behind. This subspecies is also fond of throwing disposable cups and their sleeves whenever and wherever the notion takes them. This subspecies seems to have a curious blind spot when it comes to refuse containers.

These are just a few of the species under the domain name Café Commuter. If you have spotted any other different types of species, please write and I’ll add them to the list.

Thanks for dropping by and I’ll save your seat until next time!

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Written by Lori Thiessen

My friends and former colleagues, Brent Sedo and his wife DeNel were lucky enough to spend last winter in Mexico. When I put the call out to my friends and relations for survey participants, Brent responded by sending some great photos of the coffee shop he worked out of in Mexico. I just love the one with the chickens. What a hoot, or cackle should I say!

Being a professional writer and editor for many years, Brent’s work is rather portable so wintering in Mexico didn’t require him to lose time (or money!) by being away from the office. Two of his main gigs are as Editor of the Sports and History sections of Suite101 http://suite101.com, a well-known and well-respected online magazine. Check out his work. Brent and I both worked on a print magazine many years ago called REALM which alas, is no longer in print.

DeNel ‘s rightful title is Dr. DeNel Rehberg Sedo. She is a Professor of Communications at Mount Saint Vincent University in Halifax, and she is passionate about books and reading. The Beyond the Book Project http://beyondthebookproject.org ,of which DeNel is the North American Director, is all about reading and reading communities. I was fortunate enough to be the site assistant when the research team landed in Vancouver. It was a wonderful experience.

As Brent and DeNel’s Mexican sojourn proves, your local coffee shop (wherever your locale happens to be) can be a dandy and entertaining place to work from.

Thanks again to Brent and DeNel for their support of this project!

I’d love to hear from others who have worked out of coffee shops perhaps far a-field.

Thanks for dropping by and I’ll save your seat until next time!

Photo by Brent Sedo

Photo by Brent Sedo

Photo by Brent Sedo

Photo by Brent Sedo

Written by Lori Thiessen

It seems strange to me that there is talk of severe labour shortages and yet I see so many help wanted signs in Vancouver. It’s skilled labour that we’re short of and employers seem to be looking for a very particular employee.

The MVA, or most valuable asset, for every person these days is your skill set and your knowledge base. But this is doubly true for the café commuter. What you are selling is know-how.

For a café commuter keeping up with changes in your particular industry and taking upgrading classes is critical to success.

There are a few ways to keep up with emerging technology, information and trends.

  • Read industry related journals
  • Read newspapers, magazines
  • Attend conferences
  • Attend workshops
  • Take part-time/weekend educational programs at universities or colleges
  • Take online educational programs offered through universities or colleges
  • Join appropriate associations, rotary clubs, etc.

Be sure to keep a complete record of what you are doing to keep up with your industry. It’s great to have handy if a potential client or employer asks you about your educational background.

When planning to meet with a client, gather up some articles that will relate to the client’s needs to show that you are on top of current trends.

With information and change coming at us at such a huge volume and speed, it is dizzying to try to keep it all straight. The key, I believe, is to specialize. Carve out a little niche for yourself and make yourself an expert in that area. Do keep abreast of wider trends so that you can adopt and use emerging technology to make your business more efficient and effective but know your own little groove extremely well.

Q: How do you keep up with your industry’s changes?

Thanks for stopping by and I’ll save your seat until next time.

Written by Lori Thiessen

Some time ago, I wrote a post entitled “A Java Commuter’s Fantasy”. (Gregg and I can’t make up our minds over which name we like best, java commuter or café commuter, hence the use of both of them.) It was all about the ultimate java commuter’s coffee shop office. I’m a big fan of fantasy because reality sucks most of the time, so my mind wandered into the ultimate coffee shop office again.

In the first coffee shop office fantasy post, I wished that there was a coffee shop, stationery supply store, computer store, printing/coping centre all together in one area. That part of the fantasy hasn’t changed. I still think it’s a good idea.

What I’d like to add are cubicles of different sizes. The cubicles would go around the perimeter of the coffee shop area. You could rent them out like you do for lockers at a gym. You would get a key and time limit. Say $2.00/hr for the individual cubicle if you purchase a coffee or something and $8.00/hr if you don’t (or bring your own stuff). Oh, and they are sound proof so that your music or cell phone conversations aren’t going to bother anyone and no one else’s conversations will bother you either.

All cubicles would include internet access, a desk, and a chair. Pretty basic but that’s all a person really needs. What is great about the cubicle is that you can walk out, lock your stuff up, wander out to run a quick errand, hit the head, whatever. No need to gather up all your stuff and take it with you.

The cubicles could range in size from individual, two, four or six people. Any more than that, I think it would be worthwhile to just rent a boardroom somewhere.

Q: What do you think of my latest vision of the ultimate coffee shop office?

Thanks for stopping by and I’ll save your seat until next time!

Written by Lori Thiessen

The coffee shop office I’ve been talking about in these posts has been in an urban setting, but what about the rural coffee shops? Do they serve a similar purpose as their urban counterparts?

On their last trip back to visit family in the Prairies, my mom and dad were invited out by a family member to the local coffee shop. Just a cup of plain black coffee and a slice of homemade pie. Nothing fancy. No multitude of choices to wade through. Clean. Simple. Honest.

The town was quite small and there wasn’t another coffee shop around for miles. It was the hub of social activity. Kinda like church without the guilt.

Mom and Dad were introduced to everybody in the place and everybody smiled and said that they had heard the BC relatives were coming to visit.

Several men were sitting at a booth chatting away. One of them got up to leave and came over to say his goodbyes to my parents. “Nice to have met you. I gotta go and see a man about a bull.” My mother and father though both were raised on a farm until their teen years, were a little taken aback by this announcement. The relative noticed their slight alarm and said,”Yup, he really is going to see a man about a bull.” It wasn’t a quaint euphemism for anything.

The prairie relative went on to say that the farmers and ranchers in the area often came to town while running errands and they always stopped for a cup of coffee. The simple coffee shop was the place for men in the agricultural business to exchange news, information, buy and sell, get help, advice all from one place. The simple coffee shop that sold one kind of coffee and home baked goods also served up a multitude of current information and comradeship.

The rural coffee shop serves much the same purpose as Edward Lloyd’s coffeehouse of 17th century England. It was the place to mix with others in your industry, get news and info. In fact, I would argue because of its isolation, the rural coffee shop really serves one industry, local agriculture, in the same way Lloyd’s coffeehouse exclusively served marine insurers.

Next time you drive past a coffee shop in a tiny town, don’t scoff. Stop in. Sit down. Have a cup of coffee and slice of pie. You might learn something.

Q: Would you say that individual coffee shops in certain parts of a large city cater to a particular group of people or those connected to a particular industry?

Thanks for dropping by and I’ll save your seat until next time!