Wind-and-rainstorm-related power outages today brought telecommuters in my area out of the woodwork.
I stopped at the hardware store, bought a power strip , covered my old 280Z with a plastic tarp in the parking lot, and settled in for a day of work at a local cafe that still had power and a functioning internet connection.
The power strip was a good move-made me instantly popular.
A couple squeezed over to make room for me. They were talking about going to a movie, so I looked up the times for them, and then checked some reviews at RottenTomatoes.
This is how a café should be,” said the guy sitting on my right-an MBA student named Steve, I soon learned. Within a few minutes, we had talked consulting and LinkedIn.
Years ago, when email and chat terminals first started appearing as a kind of novelty in cafes, I thought it was one of the saddest things I had ever seen. Wasn’t the point of going to a café to be around people? Who would go to a café and then sit on a terminal and type messages to people who were somewhere else?
Seven years of freelancing and periodic telecommuting later, I understand. Working at the café is social in a non-social way. We get proximity but not interaction.
Today however, we got Live Social Interaction. There must be a tipping point of crowdedness or unusualness that causes people to break the invisible barriers and interact–collaborate, really–in a way that our normal social conventions and level of insularity preclude.
The irony is that it takes a storm or a disaster to break these barriers. I’ve never met anyone who doesn’t really enjoy connecting with people in this way, which begs the question: why don’t we just live like this all the time?