You can find them in every café that has a wireless connection. Hunched over their keyboards, today’s digital nomads have managed to turn every coffee bar into an office and every table with more than one chair into a meeting room. But while they might all be typing in similar places, café workers come in a number of different flavors. Here are the seven types of café worker you can expect to find in your local latte bar:
1. The Networker
The Networker wants to be friends with everyone. He (or she) will see everyone else with a keyboard as a potential contact and every other café-worker as someone who can help them find a new client, a new partner — or even a proper job. So they’ll smile and be friendly, introduce themselves and chat — and do it all when you’re keenest to get down to work.
On the other hand, if you’re looking for an introduction or want to know what the Geek in the corner does, then the Networker is the person to know.
2. The Nomad
The Nomad is always on the move. She (or he) will turn up, drop their bag, open their laptop and disappear. The computer will sit on the table, humming away but they’ll be nowhere to be seen. After a few hours, they’ll return and either pack up their bag or have a swipe at the mousepad to bring the computer back to life before vanishing again.
It’s as though they expect the computer to do the work for them while they enjoy the day, which — if it were true — would mean that we’d have to call them “The Genius.”
If you’re really lucky, you might even come across the Indebted Nomad. A Nomad sub-species, these don’t just leave their computers on the desk, they also ask other people to watch them. You’re then left wondering whether you’re responsible if someone steals it while you’re getting a refill and find yourself feeling your sense of responsibility battle against your bladder.
3. The Hog
The Nomad takes up one spot on a table and one electricity socket but for the Hog, an entire café isn’t big enough. They’ll take a table for four, even when a table for two is available, plug every gadget ever made by Apple into all of the electricity sockets (before trailing the wire for their laptop halfway across the café), and regard other seats as coatstands, bag racks and additional desks. Most frequently found in Starbucks, where busy baristas are less likely to move them on, Hogs are famous for the dirty looks they give when you ask them very nicely if they wouldn’t mind terribly letting you plug your laptop into a socket before it dies.
The answer is usually, yes, they would mind. Their supercharged iPod Nano is more important.
4. The Socialite
For most café workers, their biggest friend is their laptop — and they don’t need anyone else. If they want conversation, there’s Twitter or, if they’re really desperate, they can ask the waiter for another drink. But when you’re serious about work, you want to keep the word stuff to a minimum.
The Socialite disagrees. For this brand of café dweller, watering holes are places not just to work but to meet, chat and sometimes to meet and chat about work. So while you’re trying to focus on your screen, at the next table four people are planning global corporate domination, sketching out their new development or watching a presentation.
They even have the cheek to give you dirty looks if you try to listen.
5. The Talker
Socialites chatting up a storm at the next table are annoying enough, whether they’re talking business or pleasure. Talkers though are far worse. These café citizens travel alone but are connected to the rest of the world through their mobile phones — which are almost permanently attached to their ears. As soon as a conversation ends and the phone hits the table, it immediately rings again, giving the rest of the café a chance to hear once again their very impressive Lady Gaga ringtone.
It’s not so much that the talk that can be so irritating to other café workers, it’s that they only provide half the conversation. Following a meeting organized by socialites can be interesting. You get to feel like you’re gatecrashing someone else’s board meeting. Trying to listen in on a conversation that only gives you one half of the chat however, is an exercise in frustration. And distraction.
6. The Moaner
One of the trickiest things about working in a café is finding the right café. Some places are filled with shoppers and tired children — you don’t want to try to work over the sound of gossip and screaming. Others are packed with students cramming for exams. They’re usually the worst kinds of Hogs, Talkers and Socialites. The key is to find a café that’s quiet enough to work, where you’ll be generally ignored, and which has enough power points for you not to have to fight someone for electricity.
Some café workers though ignore the search, pick the first café they see and try to change it — by complaining constantly. Moaners ask for the music to be turned down, the air conditioning turned up, the door left open, then closed. They’ll send back their coffee and say the croissant is too cold, ask the children at the next table to keep it down a bit and frighten the daylights out of the waiters. It makes for fun watching but not the best office mate.
7. The Geek
But the worst type of café worker by far is the Geek. Their fingers never leave the keyboard, their screen never flits back to the delights and temptations of the Internet. They’re focused on their work and they’re getting things done. Absolutely undistractable, they’re the superheroes of the café-working world — the people who come to a café and actually work.
Other types of café worker will try to console themselves by telling themselves that the Geek must be on a very tight deadline or that he doesn’t have any kind of home office — or even a home — but the fact, is the Geek is just the kind of focused, driven worker who achieves things, even when working alone in a café.
On the plus side, if they’re alone it’s probably because no one like geeks.