There’s No Such Thing as Free Wifi

I have a strange problem.  I feel very guilty when I sit in a coffee shop, using their high speed Wifi, without buying anything.  Growing up, I was always taught to buy something—water, a candy bar—from a gas station after using their bathroom.  This polite gesture now nags at me as I write these words, sitting in a local coffee shop, writing and drinking water.  But the problem becomes more complex when I add that I am on a diet and I’ve already had lunch.  I would love to buy a sweet treat or a smoothie, but I don’t want the calories.  I’d buy coffee, but I don’t drink it.  Or tea.  A year ago, I would have bought a glass of fountain Coke, but I’ve cut it out of my diet.

Much like a gas station bathroom, I am expected to buy something in exchange for sitting and writing in their establishment.  It’s an unspoken pressure I feel every time, causing me to write at the local public library instead.  But the library often has screaming kids that even my Sennheiser noise-cancelling headphones can’t block out.  There is a din at the coffee shop, but it becomes a low white noise with my headphones on.

While I love supporting my local library, I prefer the environment of the coffee shop.  Yet I can’t shake this nagging feeling.  To be clear, if it was a Starbucks, I would not feel guilty.  I have no moral problem ripping off a giant corporate company.  But this shop is local and only one of two locations.  It has a hipster aesthetic and good lighting.  I can spread out at a table or sit in a leather chair by the fireplace.  The bathrooms are clean.  What’s not to love?

So that’s why I feel so guilty.  I feel like I’m stealing from the owner.  I’d be happy to tip the coffee shop a few dollars for a few hours of peace, but I don’t want to waste my calories on a food item I don’t want.  This feels like the most #FirstWorldProblem situation I have ever been in, but it begs the question: Is there such a thing as free Wifi?

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