I just dropped my daughter off at her Girl Scout meeting. I have one free hour. – Go!
Now that I’m writing with purpose I’m on the lookout for creative places to go. I love writing in public, it keeps me on task and forces me to put my contact lenses in. No dishes to distract me, no dog to walk, no laundry to look at while I stand in the doorway shoveling a microwave meal in my hole. When I’m out of the house writing, the dog will pee on that laundry anyway and elevate the situation from lazy to efficient.
I carry my laptop with me everywhere I go. I figure if I dress the part, I’ll get the part – writer. Fake it ‘til I make it. After an exhaustive Google search for “where do writers write” I found several inspirational public places including coffee shops (yawn), parks (it’s winter), beaches, bars, libraries, shopping malls and restrooms. Yes, a blogger said restroom in an article listing public writing venues. I’ll leave that there. It is worth noting this list could also double for kinky rendezvous locations (if you’re into that).
A few days ago I went to Starbucks a couple minutes from my house. Now, as much as it pains me to admit it, I live in an affluent suburb of Seattle. We have sidewalks lined with immaculate flower boxes, a historic society, three jewelers on the same block, and a mayor waving from the back of a ‘65 convertible during the 4th of July parade. Working in this pampered environment makes me yearn for the grit. I feel like an asshole writing in a Starbucks, a hipster macchiato with two pumps of cliché. I’m sure I look like one too, luckily everyone who is judging me is in the same boat. I look like Gilda Radner’s Rosanna Danna character in the throws of a deep depression. I don’t mind, deep fried hair on a pleasantly plump frame feels more authentic to me than bleach blonde on a toned twig, powered by silicone and chardonnay.
In search of grit, I walked up the street to the library. It was fantastic. Cushy chairs, plenty of AC outlets and retirees soaking in the knowledge they wished they had paid attention to sooner (of course if they weren’t busy raising children and holding down careers). The library was clean, nicely appointed and free. I felt less like an asshat and more like a writer.
Since that was such an astounding success, I decided to try out the library near the Girl Scout meeting and make the most of my, now, 52 minutes. I circled the parking lot looking for a spot. It was dark and raining hard and suddenly a bearded man jumped out in front of the truck. His eyes were as big as saucers. I stopped quickly and missed him by a couple yards. We looked at each other for an awkward length of time and as he swayed back and forth to the soundtrack in his mind, I assessed he’d probably fail a blood alcohol test. I’d wait. I’m in no hurry (43 minutes left). He eventually tottered away like a zombie who filled his pants and someone’s reverse lights flashed on across the lot. When the spot opened up I pulled my monstrous F150 uber maxi cab truck into the spot and squeezed out my door (fully expecting to be keyed for having the audacity to park in a standard size stall).
I grew up close by and this was the library I frequented in my youth. I tromped through puddles up to the entrance and as my hand reached for the door, the unmistakable scent of cigarettes and body odor wafted by. This is the library I remembered. No amount of renovation work can cover up the smell of people on hard times.
As I made my way through the lobby I looked for a table where I could sit at and type. It was packed with people; dinner time on a Tuesday night. Tweens doing anything but their homework were hawking spit wads and taunting each other. Eccentric AARP members swayed back and forth in broom skirts and Birkenstocks in front of the Ron L Hubbard section. Men who hadn’t showered in a long time and whose eyes were sunken into their face more than other men their age were scattered all around. I was glad they had this place to go on such a wickedly cold January night.
I made it to the back of the library and not one spot was available. Young people able to sit cross-legged on the floor without cutting off the blood supply to their lower extremities gave the money seats to older folks who needed the back support. This library was only 15 minutes away from the blissful place I had enjoyed a day earlier but was stuck in another dimension. If only these patrons knew what Shangri-La lay on the other side of the tracks.
Without a place to sit, I ended up circling back to the big doors, through the metal detector and into the lobby. Above the exterior door hung a yellow poster reading, “Safe Place” in the likeness of a yield sign. Was it referring to the safety people feel among the vast rows of books or a subtle plea to not engage in petty crime around the true crime section? My bet’s on the latter.
I squeezed back into the truck, happy it wasn’t keyed during my five-minute adventure and I drove to a shopping mall close by. This too was listed as public writing venue rich in people watching. I passed the food court and saw police tape blocking the left entrance. A large window had been shattered. Perhaps a Rosanna Danna-type alone with a laptop in a bustling food court armed with only her smart mouth and chip on her shoulder should consider another writing location tonight.
I’m currently in the truck with my seat as far back as it will go with my laptop resting in the space between the steering wheel and my gut. The same gut that said, “do not go in there” earlier. My view is of the Costco parking lot and although it is not the inspiring vision I hoped for, the tapping of rain on the windshield and the unmarked cop car five spaces away is comforting.
Ding! Well, that’s that. Time to pick up my scout put her to bed and write in my bathroom.
1/24/16 Update: I see my instincts were on point: http://komonews.com/news/local/woman-with-shotgun-causes-scare-at-lynnwood-library