Dear Mr. Panera

Dear Mr. Panera Bread,

First, I want to thank you for providing free wi-fi in your eatery. Unlike Mr. Cable and Mr. Landline/DSL, who can’t seem to deliver the goods they promise, you alone have allowed me to once again have contact with my blog, my email, my online life.

I wish I could properly thank you by buying the wonderful food you have on your menu boards, but I am unable to eat 99 percent of it. I have enjoyed multiple hot teas and coffees, however, along with three salads I could not finish (sorry, no real appetite these days). And I sit at the table that no one wants because it is so hidden and squished behind a pillar, next to a trash and tray-return area. I also appreciate the multiple electrical outlets that allow me to plug in my battery-worthless laptop.

Quick question: Why, during the tropical heat of July, do you have a gas fireplace fully lit and blazing? I get the whole ambiance thing, and it’s true that your air conditioner is set at what feels like a frosty 62 degrees, but, really–a fire in the fireplace? You clearly know your clientele, however, because your guests come in wearing sweaters and hooded sweatshirts, and they seem to cluster around it. Call me stupid.

Truth be told, Mr. Panera–is it okay if I just call you Mr. Panera?–I have actually enjoyed being surrounded by the legions of computer refugees such as myself, each of us jostling for the table with the closest outlet, all of us appearing very busy as we view the important sites and documents and such on our computers. We certainly are too busy to smile a hello to one another, but we do manage a covert glance or two when we think the other person doesn’t notice. Some of us, though, have to appear ultra busy by multitasking, so we also text from our cell phones, composing missives to God knows who and about what. Then we call the person to make sure they got the text.

Before I landed in your establishment a few days ago, I had never used public wi-fi. I see now that I have been missing an ongoing cultural event of some sort, but the cast of characters seems similar to that found in coffee shops everywhere: the older couple who knows everyone and everyone knows them, the teenage girls who cram six into a booth meant for four and giggle loud enough to annoy the older couple, the business folks who need a quick caffeine fix and a place to check email because their sales jobs mean no office to speak of, and the single people who need a place to feel less alone while they eat alone.

I applaud you for providing a pretty decent environment. Your place is mostly clean and certainly bright, your food seems fresh, and you appear to be 80 percent staffed. I have seen the same staff three days in a row, working both early in the morning when I arrive, and later in the evening when I return, all under the watchful eye of a guy who appears to be a pretty decent manager. You should know your corporate training seems to be adhered to, at least in this store. Hey, I get how hard it is to find staff in these parts–it is next to impossible for me to find affordable housing close to work, especially when work is in the service industry.

Anyway, my thanks to you, Mr. Panera. You allowed me to pass hours at a time in your store, and that allowed me that many fewer hours when I wasn’t totally by myself. I promise to come back for a visit, even though the stupid phone company tells my my DSL will finally work by this afternoon. I will continue to sit at a deuce whenever possible and bus my own table, and I will always order my coffee in a mug, because it just tastes better that way.

Best, The Gal






4 responses to “Dear Mr. Panera”

  1. 6th Floor Blogger Avatar

    I’m surprised you’ve never used public Wi-Fi before. It seems right up your alley. I love that Panera has it free, especially since Starbucks and the Big Chain Bookstores charge you(and almost as much monthly as at home..) I find myself so much more productive out with my laptop then in with it.

  2. Julie Avatar

    Ahh… public Wi-Fi. In my new town, our internet connection has been really stable. (Knock on wood!)

    When I lived in NY, the cable lines would get ripped from the building routinely. Probably every two or three months, we’d be without cable and internet for at least three days. It would have been much easier if DSL was available in our neighborhood. Since I work from home, I’d lug my laptop to the local bakery-cafe. It was such a treat to have someone else get my breakfast and lunch. By day three, I’d want to work in my pajamas again.

  3. ADW Avatar

    How much do I love Panera? I know where they all are in my area, so that I can work from them if I am on the road. They do have a pesky filter problem that will block the most inane websites if they think they are scandalous, but they don’t charge you and they never hassle you either.

  4. Lisa Avatar

    I love Panera – for their bread and other wonderful delights. Unfortunately I don’t get to live the wifi experience because I don’t have a portable computer as you obviously do. Enjoy!