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Electronic Etiquette

Lots of cafes and bookstores now offer free public wi-fi. Before you boot up your electronics, here's my brief primer on how to be polite about it.

I have spent a lot of time in Orange over the last year; my youngest joined New England Ballet Company and their studio is there. Classes are two hours long so it’s not worth the time (and lately gas money) to drop her off, go home and go pick her up later. Instead I have found several places that offer free wi-fi, so I bring my laptop or Kindle and I pass the time.

What I have noticed is the lack of manners of other electronic gadget users in public places like Starbucks, etc. I bring my laptop charged up and keep the volume turned off, but I seem to be in the minority. After getting into an awkward situation with a stranger’s laptop charger cable getting caught between my legs, I have drawn up a list of what I call “Electronic Etiquette.”

Do bring your laptop, Kindle, Nook, phone or iPod fully charged. If you need to recharge it at some point, find a seat next to an outlet; do not leave the long cord winding across the floor for someone to trip over. Also please don’t run it under a seat you are not sitting in because when you unplug it and try to pull it back it may get caught between a strangers legs (did you read that Mr. Cheesy Sweater in Common Grounds?!)

Do turn the volume off on your gadget or use ear buds. I took my daughter out to lunch in Panera and we got to listen to opera blaring from a woman’s laptop. I don’t mind opera, but it was competing with the piped music in the restaurant. I know it could have been worse, it could have been Justin Bieber, but you get my point.

This is also a good time to remind you to turn your volume down when making a phone call in public. Why do some people feel the need to shout into their cell phones? No one wants to hear about your stomach bug or your Granny’s varicose veins so please take it outside. (But not the bathroom…if you are in the stall next to me having a conversation on your cell phone I may be tempted to make noises like I have dysentery and flush a couple of times….)

Do select a table that is appropriately sized; for instance, if you are alone and you are planning to work on your laptop, you only need a small table. It’s bad enough hogging a table for hours on end whilst sipping on one small cup of coffee, but please don’t use a table for four. In the same vein, your laptop bag, coat, other miscellany can go on the back of your chair or the floor, they don’t need to take up one of the coveted comfy armchairs.

Do bring something to entertain your children if you dragged them out with you. Just because they are in Barnes & Noble, don’t assume they can find enough to keep them quiet while you sit and work. Bringing a video game can be a great idea, but only if you insist they wear headphones. Also do discourage them from running around, not only is it annoying, but the tea and coffee served here is wicked hot and it’s not fair to expect other customers to play a version of Frogger with your rowdy offspring.

So there you have my top peeves. Yes I have more, but I am in Starbucks and I can’t concentrate–the two ladies that take up four tables for their knitting group have gotten loud discussing their gout so I am calling it a day!

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