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Confessions of an Office Nomad

In my quest to save money in 2010, I've decided to embark on a quest to set up office space in Manhattan without actually renting an office. Some might call that method squatting, I call it being creative and frugal.

So today is Thursday and so far, I've trekked into Manhattan three times and have had vastly different experiences while searching for a place where I could turn on my laptop or hop on a conference call without being interrupted by a mom throwing a hissy fit (no joke) or an overzealous cafe worker who wanted to kick me off of a table I was sitting at while on a phone call. Here's an overview of what I've encountered so far...

Day One: I had my usual enjoyable coffee klatch with my commuter buddies and then when it was time to go our separate ways, I made a bee line for a hotel I had noticed was right next to Grand Central Terminal. I had to do a conference call at 10am and I figured I'd be able to find a quiet spot to sit and chat. I was mistaken. You see, at the Grand Hyatt on East 42nd Street, there are lots of cozy places to sit but it's all in an open space that looks like a fish bowl.

No matter where I looked, I couldn't find a quiet corner. As a result, I ditched the place and went back inside to GCT where I found a table on the lower level and sat for about 30 minutes until an awful urine stench filled the air. Time to pack up and hit the road. I continued walking along Park Avenue and stumbled upon The Comfort Diner on 45th street. Considering I had built up quite an appetite, I decided to grab a booth, order an omelette and plug in my Verizon Wi-Fi. I then spent the next hour and a half eating my breakfast and writing a blog post and then before I knew it, it was time to meet my lunch date. I zipped uptown, grabbed lunch and then headed home on Metronorth.

Day Two: While I could have trekked into the city at noon, I decided to hop the train again so that I can catch up with my girlfriends. No matter where I am or what I am doing career wise, I have to say, I love riding the 8:48 - my 33 minute coffee klaatch is an important part of my day. So much so, that I will ride in early just so that I can start my day with some great conversation.

While making small talk with my girlfriends, I explained my latest predicament to them and they started offering up additional locations where I could get my work done. One told me I should hit the Roosevelt Hotel and another said, why not try Cosi. Since I was in the mood for my morning oatmeal, I opted for Cosi and I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised. Here's a best kept secret for those of you on the lookout for an Internet connection - Cosi offers free wi-fi in all its locations!!! Take that Starbucks! The place was pretty empty, except for a kid who was IM'ing with a friend and a couple from Italy who had sat down to have breakfast with their young daughter.

I finished my breakfast and just as I hopped on my cell phone to make a call, the mom started shouting at her daughter at the top of her lungs. It appeared as if the girl had spilled her entire drink all over the table and floor and her mother hit the roof. Okay - moms - do not be judgemental. You can speak any language you want - we've all been there. My only issue was that I was trying so hard to decipher what she was saying to her daughter that I pretty much forgot to pay attention to my conference call. I guess that's the tough part about working in Cosi - you never know who is going to sit next to you.

Day Three: I went to Cosi again and the employees are starting to recognize me. In fact, I have a feeling if I keep going back they're going to know me soon by my first name. Anyway, I grab my oatmeal and diet snapple iced tea, make small talk with the cashier and head to the back corner where I snag a table so that I have enough seats for my 11 am meeting. I spend the next three hours at Cosi and before I know it, the place is packed and people are staring at me to see when I'm finally going to vacate my table. At around 12:30 pm, I decide to make my exit after my dear friend, Kim at Traveling Mom stops by and we decide to hit Chipotle for lunch.

While Kim and I both head back to Grand Central Terminal, she tells me she has to hit the Aveda store. Unsuspectingly, I join her - not thinking I'm going to buy anything and then realize I need to get my daughter shampoo and conditioner. After shelling out a small fortune for it, I'm cast under the Aveda spell. The people there are so nice they wind up giving me a free massage and a cup of tea. I'm so relaxed I can take a nap.

More check-ins at Grand Central Station
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With five minutes to spare, I narrowly make my commuter train, respond to several emails and head back home to my sunroom where I work the rest of the afternoon until sundown.

Day Four: I took an interesting approach to my nomad status today. I had to hop on a few calls in the morning but before I left home did some googling to find a quiet location in midtown with wifi. After several searches, I managed to find out that the New York Public Library on 42 and Madison received rave reviews from fellow nomads in search of a quiet place to work. I arrived at 9:30 am with a Starbuck's skinny vanilla latte in tow and then discovered the library didn't open until 10am, so I trekked back over to 42nd street and zipped into Cafe Metro where I ordered - you guessed it, an oatmeal and a diet snapple iced tea.

Just as I was settling into a table to make a 10 am phone call, that's when the noise started. This time, it was not people noise. It was the sound of tables and chairs being moved to another location. You see, over at Cafe Metro, they do not want you hanging around to do any work. They want you to buy your bagel with butter and a coffee and hit the road. Every time someone got up from a table, they stacked up the chairs and moved the table downstairs. As I continued chatting, I knew one of the workers was getting impatient with me. And finally, when I decided to stand up for a moment, he literally took away the table I was sitting at. So rude. Guess I won't be setting up shop there any time soon.

I finally arrived at the New York Public Library at 11 am and after my bags were searched and I was instructed to turn off my phone, I walked through the lobby as if I knew where I was going (so didn't have a clue). Then saw a sign for the periodicals room - I had read online that the periodicals section of the library (room 108 for those of you paying attention) was a great place to do work - wandered inside and here I am now, typing away. Yikes! My phone just rang - how embarrassing. Wait - just checked my voicemail - it was my mom telling me that two libraries in South Florida are ordering copies of See Mom Run - rock on mom - you are the ultimate pitch woman. Gotta love libraries and senior citizens who refuse to pay full price for a funny book!

Anyhoo - I have to say, it's really amazing to be able to sit down with my laptop, place it on an expansive wood table with lamps to the left and right of me. And inside, there are other people typing away, studying, highlighting, reading the newspaper. Wow - the library is amazing. Who knew - a place where you can get your work done and be online at the same time. Sheer bliss. I think I have found the perfect place to write without being distracted. Maybe I'll even pen the great American novel while I'm here. Or a few blog posts will do just fine too.

I love the fact that people can meet anywhere now. No stigma of not having an office. It's almost like you're being more green if you don't shell out cash for a fancy office. Don't get me wrong, back in my past life, I loved my big office with a view of Ann Taylor Loft and Jann Wenner's office, but now that I'm living life as an entrepreneurial nomad, I'm looking at the world in a whole different light.

Stay tuned as I discover more great non-office finds. I think next week I'll tackle my favorite hotels. Ritz Carlton, Four Seasons and the Peninsula...I hope you have free wifi.

Posted in: Blog, The Office Nomad on 01/21/2010


  • A delightful post that brings back memories of working as a telecommuter, freelancer, and business traveler, and also of my on-going love of libraries. Try university or college libraries sometime, too! I have updated video in the parking lot of Fazzoli's (their WiFi has reach), shared tables with others in libraries large and small, enjoyed writing by the fire at Panera's, and sat through presentations at various restaurants and have been interviewed at Starbucks. Now, if only my son's baseball fields or the skate park had WiFi, I'd be set.


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