I don’t get out much.
If I’ve not got meetings and I’m not doing a shift somewhere it makes much more sense for me to work from home: the coffee is free, the dress code is relaxed and the commute is non-existent.
Occasionally, however, I am forced out into society.
It’s usually pretty stressful. I wind up in some coffee chain or other, where free wi-fi is promised but rarely delivered, it’s dirty and noisy, and there’s no plug socket or phone signal. The other day I was sitting in a Costa and a baby projectile vomited across the room. It wasn’t the best.
Last week, I was typing away in a Pret, second coffee cooling by my side, trying to tune out the man at the next table telling every passer-by about his forthcoming holiday. It was a large branch so, while it was no means empty, there were at least half a dozen free tables dotted about the room.
So, when a man pulled the chair out opposite me I assumed he was taking it elsewhere. But no, without a word, he sat down at my table for two, on which there was barely a free centimetre of room thanks to my laptop, diary, two notepads and drink.
He didn’t say a word. I double-checked I didn’t know him – that would have been embarrassing – and then wondered what to do.
The man had no drink or food and he wasn’t trying to talk to me. It was rude, weird and actually quite intimidating. And I didn’t really know what to do about it.
Moving to a different table seemed like too much a statement – I’m not sure why I was worried about that – but staying where I was made me feel uncomfortable. In the end I drained my drink, packed up and left; I had been waiting for the car to be serviced and assumed that was nearly done by now anyway.
When I left, I checked I wasn’t being followed.
See? This never happens when I’m sitting at the kitchen table at home. If a strange man sits down there, something has gone very wrong.
Something that occurs to me quite often is that, when you’re freelancing, some days no-one really knows where you are. In an office you would tell someone you were going for a meeting or out for lunch and if you weren’t back after a certain amount of time people would call or text to check on you. In my office of one that’s a bit more difficult.
Freelancing leaves you a bit more vulnerable in that respect, I guess. Maybe it’s overkill – I do have a very active imagination – but if I go for a run in the middle of the day I usually drop my husband a text or email to let him know, and the same goes if I’m on a late train home from somewhere.
But I wouldn’t think to do the same if I’m just in a coffee shop or popping to town. I mean, what would it say? “Morning! I’m in Pret, just thought you’d like to know in case a creepy man comes and sits at my table and something awful happens.” Some might say that’s slightly over the top.
In the end, I sought solace from Twitter, where I was reassured that I hadn’t overreacted and it wasn’t a feminist fail to have abandoned my table.
Really, though, it’s just easier to stay indoors, isn’t it?
More evidence that I just shouldn’t leave the house
- When working a shift last week, I got lost in an underground stairwell of the building, in the dark, panicked and set off an emergency exit alarm trying to get out.
- People on the train. Specifically, the man who took a book I was reading out of my hand to read the back of it and then wanted a philosophical conversation on the subject.
- That time a receptionist thought I was in the building not for a meeting but for work experience.
- More people on the train. Specifically, that on the tube man who, when I dropped an apple halfway through eating it, picked it up off the floor and finished it.