Laptopistan: Where Fun Goes to Freelance

For those of you not currently in the midst of finals or fellowship deadlines, let me inform you of an age-old tradition that transpires around this time of year. It involves creative forms of procrastination, including but not limited to, discovering you inner Martha Stewart. In this capacity, you decide to adopt a DIY (Do It Yourself) personality and begin to create pieces of modern art that only your mother would let grace her fridge. You call it your “personal touch,” but soon realize your friends would rather refrain from physical contact. And so you ultimately resort to a classic means of wasting time: reading the New York Region section of the New York Times.

In this weekend’s edition, I happened upon an article that seemed to encapsulate my future. The story transpires in some anti-establishment cafe in Williamsburg, where people prefer their MacBook Pros to verbal forms of communication. Said people consume $12 worth of caffeinated beverages a day, all the while completing work on various freelance projects– ranging from documentaries on telescopes to marketing alarm clocks on wheels.

Despite the diversity of projects, they all share a common bond– or at least place of residency between the hours of 9 to 5: Laptopistan. In this wondrous technology driven community, oration is reserved for power cord negotiations, as these freelancers clamor for electrical outlets. Occasionally, dates are arranged in the process of the negotiations, but as the experience of one freelancing astrophysicist indicates, romantic liaisons are not the norm– and they have very little long-term potential.

The entire world is within reach in Laptopistan.

Perhaps I am fascinated by Laptopistan because I believe that even though I have yet to enter the realm of unemployed, university-educated freelancers, I have already assumed said residency as my own with the advent of finals. During daylight hours I can generally be found in some coffee-serving establishment (traditionally, Starbucks), consuming dangerously high amounts of caffeine as I attempt to balance my actual academic work with my countless forays into online procrastination.

And I must say that despite the inevitable feeling of insurmountability that accompanies this time of year, I kind of enjoy my time in Laptopistan. As one resident of the aforementioned Williamsburg cafe phrased it, “Here, people have ambitions… they are not looking at a particular ladder to climb, they’re looking at a mountain to climb.”

As a proverbial mountain climber myself, I feel an instant connection with the freelance medical writer, composing a piece on the 1000 Genome Project, and the tortured ex-hippie screenwriter, working on a “black comedy for your grandparents’ generation.” Both characters, who seem to grace the Starbucks I call my own, have big dreams– even if in the case of the latter, they are of the pipe dream variety.

And together we form a community of “climbers,” guarding each others’ laptops when we take the inevitable bathroom break.


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