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Space invaders

Oh, you’re one of those people are you. Trying to retire by the time you are 30 by making someone else pay for your electricity bills. We’ve seen you in our local café: headphones on, staring with bitter determination at your laptop screen, anxious to avoid any eye-contact with the waiter and his nicely composed menu. You’ve been here for four hours now and have guarded that empty coffee cup with more vigour than Gollum puts into keeping people away from his infamous ring.There’s an unwritten contract at play here and you, dear sir, are in breach of the conditions. Sure, you can hang out all day working on your never-to-be-finished novel or genius business idea but, in return, you have to spend at least some money on that Monzo card you keep talking about. And, no, one extra oat-milk latte is not enough to win you a reprieve.Please don’t claim that you are not hungry, we’ve seen you scrabbling around for the nut box in your bag and did you just sneak a mouthful of homemade sandwich from the depths of your Herschel backpack? You might want to remove the smear of avocado from your lips, it’s making you look like some peculiar tropical frog.We get it: you’re a New Nomad but even an old-school one would have coughed up for a yak-milk flat white and a Mongolian muffin at this point. Your being modern and taking up squatters’ rights is costing the owner of this café a small fortune.And didn’t you notice when the nice woman with her grandchildren came and sat at the same table as you? Perhaps at that point you could have put away some of your paperwork? And why have you chosen here to do your annual accounts? And how have you managed to make it look more complicated than Ernst & Young auditing an entire nation?We know what will happen next. You’ll be off to our favourite bar where you will install your mobile HQ on a table for six. As the bar fills up you will remain in screen-stare-y mode, refusing to relinquish any territory. Your empty coffee cup will have been replaced by a glass of water.It’s at this point that diners and drinkers will notice your annoyingly aggressive typing style. The way you hit each key was last seen in the TV series Chernobyl as the power station operatives banged buttons trying to avoid a nuclear meltdown (is that what’s happening to you?). Your typing is the sort of noise that you cannot tune out – and people who came here to relax are mentally transported back to work.Eventually a brave barman will try and catch your eye. You’ll lift one headphone and stare at him. He’ll politely ask if you would mind stopping work? You shut your computer. Then once he’s out of sight you open it again. Don’t people understand that you have deadlines to meet?Finally you do stop. And as you leave feeling smug about your day, about your life living at the new frontiers of work, about your ability to survive on so little money in this city (even if, by the way, you earn more than the café owner and the waiter), the door will close behind you and a crowded bar will be at ease. It’s like everyone just got a neck massage from Amazing Bertha (I’ll introduce you another day). A hard-to-explain collective stress will evaporate and people will start enjoying a bar that’s a bar and not a “third space”.And one of these drinkers will conclude that there’s a place for people who fail to understand the ethics and rules of the new world of work. It’s called an office, you should try it one day.

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  • Monocle Weekends 1