Friday, January 31, 2014

The Pleasures of Panera

Hmmm.  It wasn't my intention to have my heading sound like the title of a sci-fi novel.  What can I imagine for planet Panera?  A place where folks made of baguettes sail on endless rivers of onion soup?

Never mind.

I want to talk about possible havens from the solitary task of writing and bastions against its accompanying loneliness.   I may be a loner in some ways but the constant isolation of writing at home is too much for me.  So, like many of my compatriots, I've explored writing in other atmospheres.

Of course, you have the library.  That's a given.  Good place to meet readers for obvious reasons.  That's why I try to appear there dressed in one of the t-shirts I have had emblazoned with my book covers.   The result is cheap advertisement and one of the few situations where I won't be offended if I catch a man staring at my boobs.

When I write at home in my tiny office/den I feel like an aesthete stuck in a cave on a mountain top in the Himalayas.  (Gotta keep the heat down at home.  Another benefit of working in a warm public place where someone else is paying the oil bill.)  The library is warm, but it's almost as quiet as my office.  More so when you account for the fact that I almost always have the Weather Channel blaring just to hear the sound of a human voice.  And even if someone at the library should notice my shirt, a conversation about my work would be much more difficult to initiate than at a coffee shop or even a book store.

Larger book stores with cafes are another option.  Unless the cafe is small.  Then you might be asked to move if your food-consumption-to-time-writing ratio doesn't meet the management's expectations.  This happened to me once.  I wrote for an hour over tea and was just about ready to order lunch.  My appetite didn't coincide with the manager's patience.

This is why I prefer Panera's.  Unlike the library, there is food and drink if I get hungry.  Like any cafe, it smells of coffee and soup and cinnamon.  There is water there, and bathrooms for what happens after you drink it.  All the necessities of life and then some.  One of the Panera's I frequent even has a fireplace.  And they've never asked me to move.  Not even when all I ordered was a latte.  A possible negative for some - on most days it is noisier than the library or most bookstore coffee shops.  Sometimes much noisier.  This is not a deterrent for me.  Personally, I find that the white noise of others' conversations cheers me.  (Okay, except for the time the women in the table behind me were speaking about their highly personal problems LOUDLY.)

Actually, the chatter is the best part.  If I'm having a particularly lonely, isolated-writer day, I can wear my "Careful or you'll end up in my novel" tee and be assured that someone will start up a conversation with a lonely author.

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