But what to do with my laptop in the meantime?
I'm not the only one with this problem. Check out this article from Alt Text on Wired:
Workin' at the Internet Cafe: Laptop Dilemma, by Lore Sjöberg
Sjöberg gives eight hilariously worded options. Click over to see. Option 1 is to leave it, which has always seemed foolhardy to me. Every once in awhile, someone will ask me to provide them with Solution 2, which is to ask a stranger to keep an eye on it. (Apparently, I look innocuous and/or trustworthy.) I try to fulfill my duties seriously, but I don't necessarily want to impose on someone in return.
I totally agree with Sjöberg that just bringing the open laptop into the bathroom raises questions, but darned if I don't do that sometimes. Because, see, logging into the internet access takes so long. It's like, what, a whole screen you have to load? Maybe 20 seconds? I don't have that kind of time to waste, people! So I keep my laptop open and bring it in with me. Into the bathroom. And take my time. Hmmm...
He also suggests the possibility of buying some sort of laptop lock, but while leaving my laptop unobserved seems too trusting, buying a heavy-duty chain seems too cynical.
I usually do Solution 7, which is to pack up and bring everything with me. I try to hold it till the very end!
His commenters have some good alternate solutions, including French kissing the laptop or leaving it open to blistering nastiness. I like the woman (and, see, I think there might be a man/woman difference here in how comfortable we feel leaving our keys and wallet as well at the table — from a self-defense standpoint, I do gather everything onto my person) who suggests bringing extra materials to mark her spot, such as sweaty gym clothes. Must remember that next time so I still have a seat when I bring all my valuable belongings into the restroom.
(I don't know why I feel the need to justify my choice to write in a coffee shop, but several of the commenters on the Wired article suggested just staying home. I use a coffee shop when I've dropped my son off at school and need a convenient place to walk to nearby that has an outlet and wi-fi before it's time to pick him up again. If you have a different reason, though, I'm cool with that, too. I'm really enjoying the coffee shop/laptop culture, to be honest!)
What are your laptop-in-a-coffee-shop solutions?