The nomadic traits of a freelance writer will often have you packing up your laptop, power cord and bag each workday in search of the best, logical workspace within 10 miles of home or within a few blocks of an errand for a time span of three to four hours.
After a sitter for my toddler is in place (thanks, Mom!), it’s a routine journey I can safely say I’ve mastered, but not without discovering the non-spots to set up shop. You may be thinking, “How much of a science could it be, really?” Or maybe, “Who cares?” Well, stop reading if you don’t care. If you decide to read on, you may thank me later if you’re ever in need of a place to work on the south end of Myrtle Beach.
Here’s my insider’s checklist, along with some locales I’ve found that meet those standards:
Free Wi-Fi. This modern connection, of course, is vital to anyone who works on a laptop and needs the Internet to keep your livelihood alive. And that’s why it’s at the top of my list. I’ve driven to delis, diners and cafes that unpleasantly surprised me with this, leaving me stuck sucking out the data from my mobile hotspot – and choking on my carrier bill next month.
Customer Service. When you’re sitting at one wobbly window table for a few hours’ time, a helping of attentive service, kind words and friendly smiles from staff go a long way. Yes, just because I’m staring into my laptop doesn’t mean I’m not aware of the welcoming (or cold) ambience. As adventurous as the nomadic workdays sound, it’s really nice to find one go-to spot to work that hits every mark on my list – but even if it doesn’t, customer service is a must. I’m a respectful, paying customer. I recently stopped patronizing a nearby bakery because, while employees at the counter were uber-friendly, the owner would breeze through the dining room and stop at every table to check on how things were, give a hug, say hello. Every table but mine. And that’s not without my effort to make eye contact, nor without regular weekly visits to the bakery from me. I was being shunned, so now I take my hard-earned money elsewhere.
Recommendations: Dunkin’ Donuts, Subway, Lincoln Park
Food Quality. There’s an unspoken code of ethics, when it comes to coffee shop/restaurant workspaces, that you need to pay your “rent” while there. The establishment’s shunning is validated if you don’t at least order a cup of their coffee (that doesn’t include the complimentary cup of tap water). I almost always choose to work where breakfast and/or lunch are served and prepared at a quality level above pre-made egg sandwiches and breaded chicken rib meat. Rarely will I waste time moving from a morning coffee shop to a restaurant serving lunch. One stop means more time to work.
Recommendations: King’s Sushi, Tupelo Honey (on the off-season, plus outlets at each stool under the bar, where you can camp out and sip on sweet tea)
Noise Level. If your conference call is hearing the 80s hair band Spotify channel in the background (despite your earbuds) that Starbucks thought would be fun to blast on Friday, you may want to reconsider your workspace for that day. There are also restaurants that have an influx of lunch bunch guests, which add to the din. Oh, and sports bars with early happy hours should probably not be a first choice.
Recommendations: Local Grind, Surfside Beach Library
Wall Outlets. It’s not an element in the décor and ambiance you usually think about when selecting a decent, quiet place to eat, I admit. But when your laptop is hanging on its last battery cell life, accessibility to wall outlets is crucial. Outlet placement near table tops or booths is normally not an issue, but there are actually establishments, like McCalisters Deli, that have absolutely NO outlets anywhere. How is this possible? I even managed to find one planted high on a wall in the corner of a Subway in Surfside Beach one time. C’mon!
Recommendations: Starbucks, Dunkin’ Donuts
Clientele. Just the other day, I had a stranger – a gentleman probably in his older 70s – sit down across from me at a six-top I had spread my stuff out onto in a deserted Dunkin’ Donuts in Murrells Inlet. He just sits down, waits for me to cautiously say hello to him, continues to ask questions about what I’m working on and what I do while he eats two glazed doughnuts and downs a small coffee, then wishes me a “pleasant day.” While this isn’t the norm behavior of fellow patrons during my workday (nor that of patrons at Dunkin’ Donuts), it’s just a nod to the types of human being surroundings that can either hinder and harass your concentration or support and supplement it.
Recommendations: Barnes & Noble Starbucks, Starbucks
Have any other locations you’d like to recommend? Do tell!