Given that times are tough, I thought I might pass along a little lifehack I learned while working on my Fulbright project out of the cafe’s of NYC: How to get Free Wireless at Starbucks.
I put the Lifehack upfront for everyone’s benefit. The story about Job and Identity in America and my regular interactions with people minutes after they’ve lost their jobs, the real point of this post, is below.
1) Go to Starbucks and and put $10 on a Starbucks card.
2) Go online and register yourself with Starbucks and AT&T.
3) Spend a cent at least once a month to receive two consecutive hours of internet free every day*.
*I seem to have no limit on my wi-fi usage so this deal might be even better than advertised. Here’s eHow‘s instructions.
Having worked out of various NYC cafes for much of the past year, I have witnessed firsthand the impact of the recession on the city’s workforce. When I came to NYC from Milano for a couple of weeks this fall, the nicest Manhattan cafes were nearly empty at 11am (Brooklyn cafes have quite a few stroller-bearing regulars). Nowadays, it’s a melee for the seat sandwiched between the Starbucks bathroom and the homeless guy that lives across from it. Don’t even think about going to the nice places anymore, any establishment with half a business person at the helm has long ago disabled wi-fi and put locks on the power outlets.
I have frequently been the first person that people talk to after they’ve been escorted from their office. I can pick ’em out from a block away through Starbuck’s big glass windows. The progression of events looks something like this:
1) Armed with their 3 year old mac and wearing a pant suit for the last time for at least a few months, they stumble into their local Starbucks around 11am.
2) Shocked that the place is not empty, they get into line for their $5 latte. By the time they reach the counter, they realize for the first time that the cafe au lait is 60% cheaper. They purchase the latter and meander into the center of the Bucks, pondering their new found frugality.
3) After being pushed to and fro by the steady flow of traffic emanating from the door, they move to my corner of the store in search of a safer vantage point from which to pick off a table. I tell them that there is enough room for two at my table for six. They smile sheepishly and thank me for my generosity. They’ve never spoken to anyone besides their co-workers in a Starbucks.
4) They sit down, open up their mac, and ask me if i have wireless. I explain the situation (instructions below*). They frown, look down at their empty blackberry, and open up their resume.
Crazy. Less than an hour before these people were walking out of HR shielding their eyes from the pity of remaining coworkers, sneaking back through the kitchen to their desk, futily trying to download their personal contacts, gathering their lucites, and sneaking back through the kitchen and out of the office where they spent the past four years doing whatever they did.
I applaud the go get ’em-ness of going straight into the job search, but man, did anyone ever consider that it might be nice, healthy even, to take a few minutes just to think? To take a walk by the water. To call your mom. To sit in the park on this sunny day. Wow.
This post was not meant to poke fun at or ridicule people affected by the downturn, only to tell their story. The difference between Job and Identity in America is virtually indistinguishable and recent events have a lot of people soul searching. If you see someone that fits the bill that I just described, give them a pat on the back and tell them it’s going to be OK. It will be.