My weekend writing spot (a members-only organization in Manhattan) has a lot of rules:
- No talking in the room.
- No slamming doors.
- No hogging bathroom keys.
- No swiping magazines.
- No leaving desk unattended for more than an hour.
- No leaving dirty dishes in the sink.
- No leaving the coffeepot empty.
- No leaving food in fridge for more than a week.
- No bringing in guests, even if it’s your husband and you just want to give him a quick peek at the place where you write.
- No “munching” at desks. (The candy bowl in the kitchen is such a tease.)
- No shoes on the chairs.
- No writing while barefoot. (Yes, an email to members was sent out about this. Apparently some writers are bothered by the sight of others’ bare feet.)
But the biggest rule of all, the one that gets everyone up in arms, has to do with phones. Obviously you’re not allowed to talk on the phone here. Who would? There’s a phone room where you can make calls if you need to. And there’s wireless internet access. It’s not like a real writers colony where you have to hike up a dirt road to the one room in the whole place that has internet access if you want to check your email. (MacDowell, and that one place is Colony Hall.)
No. Now, here at my weekend writing spot, if you are seen with a phone in hand—like, say, running out to the phone room to answer a call—there are serious consequences.
First strike: $50 fine.
Second strike: $100 fine.
Third strike: You’re kicked out on your ass.
I couldn’t figure out how they’d know if you had your phone out and happened to glance at it to see if someone called or texted you on the weekends when the staff isn’t here, but then I realized. There are spies. Everywhere. Writer informants ready to turn you in. Now whoever I pass in the hallway seems suspicious. This one woman—one of the old-school members, not friendly—I bet she’s an informant; actually she’s pretty mean. The girl at the desk behind me, she seems nice enough, but could she be one too? Is Famous Writer an informant? Is the frazzled guy who walks around like he just crawled out of bed doing that as a cover—is he in fact a spy? Or… are those light fixtures really cameras? Is someone watching me type this right now?
Oh no, I’m getting paranoid.
Fact is, I don’t tend to make any phone calls here, but I have—I admit it, I admit it!—texted silently from my desk. The phone itself is on silent—no ring, no vibrate—but I guess texting that is no louder than typing on a laptop is something I can’t get away with anymore. I promise I will never do it again.
All that said, if you want to reach me on the weekend, don’t call. Really, don’t. If I forget to turn my ringer off and it starts singing… I’m dead.