Running My Business from the Caribou Coffee Parking Lot at 10 PM

Running My Business from the Caribou Coffee Parking Lot at 10 PM

My Internet connection is down again today. It is now day 10.

On the first morning after the heavy rain storm when my connection wouldn’t, well, you know, connect, I didn’t think anything of it. I had a meeting out of town, packed my computer and my notes and headed to the car.

On day 3 of no connection, I called the cable company. Via my phone I toured many departments, visited India and back — and still no connection.

“We’ll have to send someone out, Ms. Brown. How is next Saturday between 2-4pm?” Seeing as Saturday is three days hence, it wasn’t my first choice but the show must go on.

I packed up and headed to the local library for their wireless. Connected. Ah, that sense of no longer being marooned. I retrieved email, wrote a blog post, did some research and responded to my email.

Gads – my email wouldn’t send!

I packed up and headed to the local coffee shop for their wireless connection. Comfortable seats, a connection that works both ways — receiving AND sending. Yet there was something not so right about taking without giving, so I bought a coffee. $4.25 later (because you can’t go into a coffee shop and just buy ordinary coffee — shouldn’t you experience something different?) I send my email. Then I smell the scones. Another $2.00 later I’ve gotten caught up and yet – no I haven’t because more email has come through and another blog comment to respond to and a request for a proposal and an hour turns into many hours and it’s dinner time.

I pack up to feed my family only to realize that I have a project due to a customer by morning and they are expecting it by email. Which I don’t have in my home office at the moment. So after dinner it’s back to the coffee house again.

This frustrating dance continues for three more days, packing up my office, starting at the free library, ending up at the coffee shop, wasting gas and drinking and eating into my profits.

Finally Saturday arrives.I have dropped my computer off at the “doctors” to make sure it isn’t my hardware and in the process of swinging by to pick it up — I miss the cable guy by seven minutes. SEVEN MINUTES.

I place an urgent call — he’ll be right back, Ms. Brown. I sit for five hours and 52 minutes until 8pm— the end of their shift. I call again — oh he’ll be out tomorrow for sure. Sometime between 8am and 8pm.

No work this weekend while I wait for the cable guy.

Sunday shines brightly and the Internet is once again connected in my home, thanks to the Sunday-working cable genius. I download email, check Bloglines for my RSS feeds … and BAM! The connection is gone again.

I turn to my son in total frustration.

“I have commitments I am unable to keep because of the Internet. What happened to us that we’ve become so totally dependent on the Internet?”

He says “Wow, that would make a great blog post. Too bad you can’t connect to the Internet to write it.”

Smart aleck. Remind me why I had kids.

Three more days I travel from hot spot to hot spot looking for connections to continue to run my business.

The final day finds me here in my car at 10pm outside the Caribou coffee shop answering email and praying the connection will reach my car in this empty parking lot. Eureka! Connection without cost. Can’t survive much more of this insanity.

They come tomorrow to lay new cable outdoors. Fingers crossed.

However, if it doesn’t work at least I now know I can conduct business from the parking lot outside the local coffee house. Now, if only my van had a bathroom …

P.S., This was my life last month. The cable guy restored my cable the next day … and in the process, took out the neighbor’s cable television.

Has this happened to you? Here are two resources you might want to check out:

John Henshell offers some advice for those experiencing computer issues — what do to before you call the repair guy, in his guide to solving business computer problems.

Nathan Janos tells us how to connect to our computer from anywhere in his article of the same name.

And be sure to share your painful, silly stories in the comments below, about how you’ve had to adapt when computer issues have hit your business. We’ll laugh with you. 🙂

Image: Shutterstock


18 Reactions
  1. Hi Deborah
    You are so funny. And good natured. If you move to Seattle area, you’ll find out that it is perfectly fine to go in and not order…. Well, not perfectly fine, but perfectly okay to just order a cheap “drip” for $1.00 and surf, surf…. My son is 5 and he tells me new things and when i ask him where he learned that he quips, “i read it on the internet…” He can’t read yet…. Smart aleck is right.

    We live out of the city and have pretty frequent power outages, which includes our Comcast connection. So we have one of our phones set up for Blackberry internet access, which is the only total workaround i’ve found. Plus we’re the home of the new Clearwire service, which may be in your town soon…

  2. Okay – finally a reason to tack on the cost of Internet access to my Verizon bill. I have a phone that is capable of receiving email and surfing the net but hadn’t been able to justify the extra tab.

    Sounds like I need to make a phone call! Thanks for the tip.

  3. There must be something in the water — sounds like everyone is having this bad internet connection problem — oh — except for MEEEE! Bwahahaha (sorry, I had to be a smart aleck too).

    Well, that almost sounds like the adventure I had finding a HARD PHONE LINE so that I could do Anita’s Small Biz Trends Radio podcast in June. SHHEEESH.

    I had computer, I had internet — but no land line! I went from hotel to hotel — these were just beach vacation hotels, no quiet place to be on the phone. I finally, in desperation, called the real estate office that handled our rental and they gave me a conference room. Then the phone was bad! Finally, a few trial and error calls from different phones and I was set. Who’d a thunk it! No access to land lines in New Jersey.

  4. Deborah Chaddock Brown

    Well, now you just opened another can of worms. I was just talking with my son last night about the pros and cons of getting rid of the house land line. No one calls it – we all have cell phones.

    Are we moving toward a society where we just use high tech – are land lines a thing of the past? If so, what happens when we have a situation like Ivana just described?

    Technology is taking over. It reminds me of the movie “The Blob.”

    BTW, Ivana, nice evil laugh!

  5. When Europeans come to NYC they are horrified by the primitive state of our Internet infrastructure. When I read your story about the straight-awful Internet infrastructure that exists outside of American cities — I sigh. It looks like urban living is my own option if I am to make a living as a digital-age professional.

  6. You’re hilarious Deborah, Caribou’s coffee is tough to drink without a scone, and I like your son!

    Visiting Minnesota during the winter on an extended business trip, my buddy and I spied college students sitting outside a coffee shop in subzero weather for free wifi.

    My wife’s ballet school has free wifi and we don’t sell coffee, so come on by.

  7. Ah, the Internets. How they have graphed onto our souls. If it came down to a choice between food, plumbing and the Web, I’m afraid what decision I would make. 🙂

  8. I had a similar experience but had no laptop. I had to go to a friends home and try to focus in the midst of 4 crazy dogs, loud noise, ringing telephones – and an awful feeling of discomfort. Yuk!

    And for those of you considering parting with your landlines – rethink that. I will not allow myself to rely solely on the new technology available today. Maybe I’m old fashioned . . . but it just doesn’t feel safe to be without one truthfully. Cell phones fail you. The batteries run dead. Service is interrupted more often than on a landline. I think they’re great – but they are not reliable and I won’t be parting with my landline anytime soon. Do that – and you’re at the whim of “fussy” technology.

    Plus, when I talk to people, I know they can hear me and I don’t sound like I’m underwater 🙂

  9. Deborah,

    I truly understand your problem – I live in an Asian city where Internet connection is a luxury, and a stable connection is what money can’t buy – LOL

    Yes – I’ve asked the same question a moment ago – what would I do if I was cut off the Internet? My answer, too: go to Starbucks or whatever coffee shops offering free Internet access and sip a dozen cup of coffee just to keep me there ‘legitimately’ for 10 hours or so 😀

    Thanks for the interesting post! 🙂

  10. Martin Lindeskog


    I hope you are feeling alright now! This story is another proof that a place like my company (part owner), Blue Chip Café & Business Center, is a good idea. I want to set up this type of business in USA. We had a dedicated internet line with free, secure WLAN for our customers. They could also use stationary computers with printer facility in a separate area. Think the historical coffee-houses with a modern twist.

  11. Ha ha ha! This reminds me of a similar experience I had recently. Laptop in tow, I traveled from coffee house to coffee house in search of a good free WiFi connection, like a Bedouin with my tents and saddlebags. Except instead of on the back of a camel I was in my car.

  12. Please don’t bite my keyboard. LOL
    My Internet is down for 2 hours today…

  13. Having internet connection problems are frustrating but not nearly as frustrating as talking to the customer service person on the other end of the line. I was having a connection problem myself a few months ago. I wasn’t losing connection completely but it would come & go when it felt like it. So if I had a blog article half written and it decided not to work, I lost everything! It took several weeks and several calls to finally figure out that the filter on my satellite tv receiver wasn’t connected correctly. We had upgraded to a dvr receiver and the technicians left the filter loose. All of my hair pulling for a loose filter.

    The kicker for me came two weeks ago. This connection problem started in February. I get a call a few weeks ago about my service request. What??!!! You’re just calling now? She asks if I still needed someone to come out, are you kidding? Five months later, I’m sure glad I didn’t wait around for their help.

  14. We live in rural Indiana (where we operate our family business) and our ONLY option for Internet is a satellite. We are glad to have it, but it can fade out when it is a bit overcast or stormy. We’ve had several periods of 4-5 days where it was knocked out by a storm and we had to wait for someone to come service it. It is amazing how dependent we’ve become on the Internet – not only for operating the business, but also for personal things — like access to yellowpages online or my contact list or mapquest or simply to find information. It is very frustrating while it is gone, but then again, also a little peaceful when I’m not stopping at the computer to check my email every five minutes.

  15. Is it possible to pay for a “business class” DSL or cable line? If so (and even if not), calling up customer service as a Productive American Business and not as a Simple American Consumer might get them to treat your request with greater urgency.

    It certainly works when dealing with local government and such — it can’t hurt to try 🙂

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  17. RedHotFranchises

    10 Days is way too long for your internet connection be down unless the bills aren’t paid. I would immediately switch providers if that happened to me. This happens very rarely.

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