The first time I ever walked into a Panera was in Cincinnati, Ohio. I remember it like it was yesterday. The minute I saw the warm colors, the fireplace, the unlimited hot tea, and the free wi-fi, I knew. This was a place where a writer could hang out. At the time, I was teaching, and often met my teacher friends at Panera after school. I wasn't doing much writing and didn't need a writing hang out.
When we moved back to Greenville, we had Panera, too. But I fell in with a crowd who frequented a local hang out called Cafe Del Giorno, and was very happy there amongst its leather couches, local-artist-covered walls, and froufy frozen coffees. But then Cafe Del Giorno closed, the writer friends went for drive-thru coffee, and I became a new mom--twice.
I had really high hopes about my home office. Tom bought me a matching desk and craft armoire. We painted the walls a gorgeous shade of mango. Put up an enormous bookshelf. Added a chaise lounge and some travel posters. A funky cork board. Family pictures. It was the perfect space to sit and write, until Baby Boy Sam learned to climb out of his play yard and unplug the computer and throw things at mommy and pull all the books off the bookshelf and hang from the travel posters. Then my office became the-room-that-I-once-used-as-an-office-and-has-now-become-a-place-to-store-things. If I even look like I want to use the room as it was intended, Sam wanders in and puts his life in danger.
I was getting increasingly frustrated, but now I have a plan B.
John and I drop Sam off at preschool and head to Panera. John sits in his stroller playing with his toys and people watching, which makes him happy, and I sit and work on my laptop, which makes me happy. Aside from possibly having to bounce a bored baby on my lap, nobody is calling me, talking to me, asking me to read to them or fix a choo choo. I don't need to find anyting for anyone. The dogs aren't scratching to come in or go out. The cats don't meow at me for water. Someone else makes my food.
And I've been amazingly productive. I've gone to Panera three time now, and the re-write of my book is nearly finished save for a little polishing I hope to do tonight. And since Tom can wach both boys on Saturdays, this may become my new weekend tradition.