“Real freelancers don’t work in coffee shops. It’s just unemployed hipsters and their unpublished novels, or screenplays, or Facebook stati," says David Sax, who, for the sake of journalism, confronted those disdainful café-dwellers and entered a territory he calls "Laptopistan." More specifically, he went to Atlas Café in Williamsburg, exclusively. (Thereby snubbing Manhattan's own Atlas, the "disarmingly lovely" Bluebird, Jake Gyllenhaal–favorite, Gorilla Coffee in Park Slope, and Gimme Coffee, elsewhere in Brooklyn.) But here's what Sax uncovered about New York freelancers who work in cafés:
They're Psychotic Zombies: "[At Atlas,] laptops had colonized every flat surface. No one uttered a word; people just stared into screens, expressionless. It felt like that moment in a horror movie when the innocent couple stumbles into a house filled with hibernating zombies, and they listen, in terror, as the floorboard creaks ... Silence is golden ... There's a code."
They're Really Just Emotionally Repressed: "Most are in their 20s, 30s or early 40s, split evenly between men and women. The dress is casual, with both sexes wearing T-shirts, sweaters and jeans. Most Laptopistanis work alone. Socially, Laptopistan is a conservative society; outward displays of emotion are frowned upon. Most people hide behind their screens."
Occasionally They Date One Another, But It Rarely Works Out: "Mr. Tugendhaft has been coming to Atlas nearly every day for three and a half years ... He has dated fellow Laptopistanis, but not anymore, preferring to keep romance out of the workplace. People tend to keep to themselves, he said, until something breaks the routine ... Mallory Roberts, a longhaired freelance astrophysicist, said that he had met two girlfriends (now exes)."
But Mostly, They Leave the House So That They Can Actually Accomplish a Single Thing! Mystery solved: "At home, the slightest change in light is enough of an excuse to get up, walk around, clip my nails or head into the kitchen. In Laptopistan, I focused with intense precision, sitting motionless for hours at a time ... Laptopistan provides structure, and freelancers, like children, secretly crave structure."
Also: They're cute. So, while they might seem like zombies, Brooklyn-based, laptop-using freelancers are really just like everyone else: They like to drink coffee, date, and finally settle down with a laptop, finding the elusive structure they've secretly always yearned for. They're not so damn special, after all.
Destination: Laptopistan [NYT]