Black Loiterers, White Lingerers, and Starbucks Coffee

Originally published for the Intelligencer at NYMag.

There is a well-known stereotype of a particular kind of coffee-shop patron — an aspiring screenwriter or freelancer, scrupulously cobbling together their pitches or book proposals, courtesy of their favorite local haunt’s free Wi-Fi, electrical outlets, and comfortable furniture, paying for their mobile home office with just a $2 cup of bottomless coffee. This patron, of course, is usually white. The trope has been both parodied and celebrated, and it’s easy to find lists ranking coffee places by how easily they can be transformed into work spaces. Since this lifehack only works by shifting costs from the patron to the coffee-shop owner, some coffee shops have responded by either eliminating Wi-Fi services or furniture — but I’ve never heard of an earnest novelist being carted away in handcuffs for spending several hours after their last order writing character sketches. Continue reading