An iPad Is Not A Laptop

Cafe Grumpy's one of the best coffee bars in NY. It's known for two things: It's one of the few places that to get Clover-made coffee in NY, and it banned laptops. I was there yesterday; it's incredible. People were talking.

That is, instead of staring silently, glass-eyed and slack-jawed, faces aglow with the soft light of a laptop, occasionally slurping coffee, rows and rows of slumped-over humanity. The place was packed. Bustling. Alive. I couldn't find a place to sit.

It's a vibe I haven't seen in a coffee bar in a long time, especially not in New York. (The closet-sized abraco excepted, where everybody always seems ecstatic about being there, and perhaps not coincidentally, cannot sit.) People used to go to coffee shops to talk. Read. Or hell, enjoy coffee. Now they're simply the other place to use a laptop: not home, not work. People sit affixed and silent. For hours. I've done it. But there's no question: Laptops smother the atmosphere. So it's amazingly refreshing to feel something different, people connecting to people, instead of gadgets.

Which brings us to the iPad. It's supposed to be this third thing. Bigger than a phone, smaller than a laptop. It browses; it's got books; it plays video. Can it possibly have a place in a laptop-free utopia? I asked Caroline Bell, who owns Cafe Grumpy, if she's going to drop the banhammer on the iPad when they come out. Her reply surprised me:

I think iPads would make for some interesting conversations these days because you don't see too many around, they don't take up much table space nor do they create a physical barrier between you the rest of the world when you put them down in front of you. So, I guess I won't be adding no iPads to the signs just yet!

I wonder how long that'll last.

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