How can I get some work done on vacation without being an asshole?
July 2, 2014 12:08 PM   Subscribe

So, my boyfriend of six months and I are heading to NYC tonight and staying 'til Sunday. I have a up against a wall with an approaching work deadline and because of my own poor planning will need to do a little bit of chipping-away-at-it while we're there. I need to carve out three or four 3/4-hour (ish) focused working sessions during our trip, and I wanted to ask the hive mind if anyone familiar with the city could suggest any non-awful ways to handle this. Light flurries inside...

Salient details:

- the work I have to do is coding, so it's very portable. I can work pretty much anywhere, but it really has to be three or four-hour chunks — less time is useless. So I need power and internet (I likely won't have a data plan, but could get one for the right idea!)
- he's a writer but doesn't want to write right now, and he teaches but just finished for the year. So co-working is probably out: he's in vacation mode.
- we're staying in Brooklyn (Borough Hall), borrowing a flat from his cousins.

I was thinking if we could find somewhere with interesting books and nice space, he would probably be happy exploring/reading for a couple hours while I work. Any location suggestions?

He's also a morning person, and I'm a night owl, so I was thinking maybe I might get a night shift done. But that means no drinking for me that I get to play spoilsport :(

And we do a pretty good job with talking things through and communicating well. I just want to try and find elegant ways to mitigate this annoying vacation behaviour. I'm also trying to think of ways to show him I'm really happy to be on vacation with him / nice things to do for him to make up for it.

Specific ideas or any general advice, anything is welcome. I like this guy and really, really, really don't want to screw this up!
posted by sixswitch to Human Relations (35 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Would he normally wake up early and entertain himself while you slept in? Wake up early to work and get it out of the way for the day. It's a nice gesture to change your own routine without materially impacting his.
posted by juliplease at 12:11 PM on July 2, 2014 [7 favorites]

To be honest, I would just try to get this all done tonight/tomorrow and enjoy the rest of your weekend. There aren't a lot of places that have Wifi and a ton of other interesting things to do that would occupy someone for 3-4 hours.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 12:13 PM on July 2, 2014 [5 favorites]

Drop by my store (the Strand Bookstore at 12th and Broadway) and say hello.
posted by jonmc at 12:17 PM on July 2, 2014 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: Extra details: we're leaving tonight taking the overnight bus. I've been pushing hard the last couple days but I'm not going to make it :(

juli - I like that idea, I'm just not sure if I'll be functional. Adding it to the list though, thanks!
posted by sixswitch at 12:18 PM on July 2, 2014

Response by poster: Jon — that's one of my favourite places in New York! We will definitely be making a visit...
posted by sixswitch at 12:19 PM on July 2, 2014

Send him to Philadelphia for a day alone. Do a ten hour crunch the whole time he's gone and get it all done. Get him to buy a cooler bag, bring you back a hoagie and tell you all about everything he saw over evening drinks.
posted by 256 at 12:19 PM on July 2, 2014 [3 favorites]

Either do it all in one push on your first day while he's at a museum or meeting with some friends of his, or, timeshift your own schedule to be up very early in the AM, and bust out the work then so that it's not hanging over the rest of the day. I'd really try to get the minimum you have to get done for the weekend early-on so that your whole vacation isn't haunted by the work that remains undone.
posted by quince at 12:19 PM on July 2, 2014 [2 favorites]

Well, if you're in Borough Hall, you're right near some major transportation hubs - so you could always do this where you're staying while he goes off to do something. He can get a LOT of places from there. Then you just join him when you're done, or meet him somewhere else.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:20 PM on July 2, 2014

This is absolutely fine, since NYC is a city of people married to their jobs, anyway.

Find a cafe. Bring your laptop. Try to sit near an outlet (there are lots of coffee shops -- especially independently owned places -- that tacitly cater to working folks and have installed TONS of plug points for this very purpose). You're good to go.

The only complicated thing is if you'd need to deal with phone calls, since usually coffee shops are understood to be quiet working zones, or more for socializing.

Re your boyfriend, this really depends on the two of you and your travel style. I'm up for just saying, "Hey so I need to work for a few hours, meet you at lunch?" and going our separate ways. NYC is an easy city to navigate with tons to see and do. It's not like you'll have rented a car, and you needing to be in a Starbucks somewhere will completely ruin his day. Send him off to some tourist sight he's more interested in than you are, unless your sleep schedules make it work.
posted by Sara C. at 12:20 PM on July 2, 2014

If they have power and wifi on the bus, that's when you do as much of the work as you can. Otherwise, he gets to explore the city and you gotta work. Thems the breaks!
posted by Ironmouth at 12:21 PM on July 2, 2014

You could go co-work at Wix and let him wander around Chelsea for a bit? There's stuff to do over there, even if it's just eat pizza or see a movie/sight see. I think I agree with folks who say you should crunch it all out in one big push and let him go do his own thing while you do it. Also, code nerd here and I feel your pain.
posted by littlerobothead at 12:23 PM on July 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

Take the 2/3 over to the Brooklyn Public Library to work. Nearby is the Brooklyn Museum, Botanical Gardens, Prospect Park and various shops/cafés on Vanderbilt and Washington for your bf to entertain himself.
posted by greta simone at 12:27 PM on July 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

Won't you have some down time back at the flat? I mean, wake up a bit early and do it before your day starts, or come back to it in the afternoon, between your tour of Ellis Island and your dinner reservations. Or do it when you come back in the evening.

I would NOT want to be dragging a computer around NYC looking for a Starbucks. Just plan the time into each day.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 12:31 PM on July 2, 2014 [2 favorites]

The Brooklyn Historical Society has a library and exhibitions. It's in the area where you're staying. (Disclaimer: I've never been inside.) It's closed on Friday for the holiday, but open from 1-5pm on Thursday.

The weather is supposed to be hot and rainy from today until Saturday.
posted by hooray at 12:32 PM on July 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

If you find a coffee shop in TriBeCa the poets house is a neat little poetry museum a writer might enjoy there's also galleries, shops, a view of the water, a park, bars, tea shops, nice restaurants, and the Irish memorial.
posted by LaunchBox at 12:34 PM on July 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

So you need to do work for 45 mins 3-4 times or 3-4 hours 3-4 times? Assuming the former, this should be easy. I've worked at the following locations on many occasions:

Max Caffe (one of my faves) - he can enjoy some drinks and a book while you do your work; or he can wander around the Columbia campus.

Telegraphe cafe - he can check out the union square greenmarket and/or chelsea market while you work (maybe he can pick up items that you guys can use to make a meal after you're done working)

Rubenstein Atrium - he can walk around lincoln center, check out the performing arts library, shop at columbus circle, or sit in central park and read

Le Pain Quotidien in Central Park - (not sure about outlets here) he can have a glass of wine, or explore the park

He could also: take a tour of a museum or one of the NYPL exhibits, rent a citibike and ride along the hudson, get a massage (check out super magic fingers if he's cool w/ sketchy-seeming atmosphere in exchange for cheap and intense massages), ride the staten island ferry (get off and immediately back on), or just wander about.
posted by melissasaurus at 12:35 PM on July 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'd probably go out in the mornings with him, do whatever touristy stuff, have lunch, then go back to the flat and work for a few hours before dinner and evening fun. He can opt to stay out exploring, or go back with you and relax or nap. You always need some downtime everyday while on vacation.
posted by JenMarie at 12:36 PM on July 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

Do you have headphones? I actually really like doing coding work in the Ace Hotel lobby before 6pm, on 29th and Broadway - they have reliable wifi, a lot of power plugs, good (albeit pricey) coffee / food, and most importantly, they're not a cafe, so they don't pressure you to leave. It's loud, noisy and busy, but it's a kind of even loudness, there's also a lot of people working on laptops / having meetings constantly, and if you can get into the zone, it can work pretty well. I mention it because it's pretty much in the middle of the city, so your boyfriend wouldn't have to "come back home" to Brooklyn to meet up with you; he could go on walking around the city, check in with you for a coffee, leave for another hour or so.

Wix Lounge is another good idea; the public libraries are also a good idea. You could go to the Mid-Manhattan library around Bryant Park in the early morning; he could wander around, and you could meet around lunch in Bryant Park, etc.

You could also get a day pass for a coworking space in the city - Greenspaces, New Work City, Dumbo Startup Lab are a few places that have day passes.
posted by suedehead at 12:37 PM on July 2, 2014

Was going to suggest the public library by default, but watch the opening times - especially as for July 4th some places (not just libraries) are closed on the Friday, and some on the Saturday as well.

Oh, as partner is a writer, they are often looking for experience and inspiration. Here's his chance to have a wander. I personally love it when my partner brings some work with her, or she's at a conference, as it gives me obligatory own-time to go and explore whatever I want at my own pace.
posted by Wordshore at 12:40 PM on July 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

It's three or four three or four hour sessions over a 6 day vacation, correct? Just clarifying for up-thread. (my god the uselessness of a 45 minute coding session)

I would just make a routine of going out in the mornings, working afternoons, and going out in the evenings, as JenMarie says. I usually am dead between lunch and dinner anyway.

And like -- I am under the pop-culture impression that men work on vacation all the time. (Do I think it's good practice? No...) My friends routinely report "My coworker is on vacation but he is replying to email faster than when he is in the office". So if it's not a gender stereotypes-bound relationship, I wouldn't feel all that guilty.
posted by batter_my_heart at 12:46 PM on July 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

On that list is the InfoCommons at the central Brooklyn Public Library. Plenty of stuff to see around there, as greta simone points out above.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 12:58 PM on July 2, 2014

Do you have any reason to think your boyfriend will be annoyed that you have to devote a small fraction of your vacation to work? Or is the idea that this is "annoying" coming from you?
posted by escabeche at 1:26 PM on July 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

escabeche, four hours every day for a four day weekend is not a small fraction of time.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 1:29 PM on July 2, 2014 [11 favorites]

Can you work in off-line mode on the bus on the way up? Does the bus have wi-fi?
posted by Schielisque at 2:21 PM on July 2, 2014

If you're a night owl do as much as possible on the overnight bus tonight. Depending on what time you set off you could probably get four to six hours done. Then I would just pick a day to spend at home in the apartment, and you can have a lie in together and brunch, then you spend the day working, he can be going for a run, snoozing, buying stuff for dinner, reading a book, you two can share a beer, he can make dinner... it could be quite romantic and cosy.
posted by tinkletown at 2:25 PM on July 2, 2014

My ex was a coder. He was also a raging jerk about putting his work first, especially on our vacations. Here's what I would have liked:
- The ability to explore the city on my own while he worked. NYC is a big place. He can certainly find stuff to do solo!
- Sticking to the times you plan on working. Don't work for "just five more minutes" because that usually meant five more hours of waiting.
- Don't talk about your work while you're not working.
- Ask him what works best for him and accommodate him as well as you can.
- Take him out for an awesome meal or two and tell him how much you appreciate his giving you time to work while on vacation. Thank him. Apologize for not giving him more advance warning.
- See if you can extend your deadline. Seriously. 4 hours a day is a part time job.
- Try to plan another trip soon together where you won't work.
- Be kind and loving and generous and wonderful (I have no reason to believe you aren't but my ex was either busy working or being mean to me on all our "vacations" and it was awful. I am maybe the only person who hates Paris because of my bad experiences there with him. He sprung "I need to work four hours a day there" on me just hours before we left, refused to let me go anywhere or do anything without him, and was a fighty jerk because of "work stress" the entire time. Don't be him.)
posted by sockermom at 2:53 PM on July 2, 2014 [21 favorites]

Yeah also we spent a huge majority of our time searching for the "perfect work spot" hauling around laptops and books etcetera in Paris and it was a drag. Of course he made me carry a bunch of that stuff too because it was "only fair". Just work in the apartment.

Hacker spaces for non coders are awkward and weird. Well, the hacker space I sat in for five hours in SF made me uncomfortable anyhow, and I was hungry and he needed "just five more minutes" all afternoon and refused to let me get my own food. Or water. Let him have freedom to do what he wants and do not drag him to coffee shops and hacker spaces. There is way too much else to do and see in NY.
posted by sockermom at 2:56 PM on July 2, 2014

How long ago was the vacation planned? If this is a recently planned vacation, surely he'll cut you some slack over work deadlines. Otherwise, if this has been something you two planned for a while and you have to work because of your own doing, I don't really see how you couldn't come off as an asshole in this situation; I would anticipate your bf to be upset by your changing the plans. After all, the same day you're set to leave on this vacation, you're springing it on him that you need to work a part time shift (4 hours) every day you're there. That's pretty significant for a 3-3.5 day vacation.

So rather than disrupting the potential vacation plans every day (by trying to get in that 3-4 hours of work), I would work on the bus (offline mode) and then choose a single day (tonight) and pull an all-nighter to finish up. This way, only 1 day is impacted, and that impact can be minimized by you taking the 'overnight shift' (and sleeping in the morning after) and allowing your bf the 'morning shift' to himself (which he's probably use to as a morning person). It means a lamer bus ride there, and a bit of an exhausting night for you, but it would also mean only 1/2 day of your actual vacation would be impacted.

If you must spread the work out over the entire duration of the vacation, I think it'd be more appropriate to do the work in the morning. Your bf is already used to occupying himself in the morning, so you doing work won't inconvenience him or alter his plans. It'd also leave the rest of the day to truly enjoy your vacation - including imbibing with your bf at dinner without worry.

FWIW, unless your bf suggests it, I don't think I'd be so eager to tell him to just go explore the city alone so you can get work done. To do so completely ignores the fact that you planned this trip together, presumably because you both desire to spend it together. If your bf wanted to explore NYC without you he could/could've done so (and might've wished he had if he's the only one in vacation mode) - but he didn't, he chose to do this vacation with you and is probably hoping you both have fun (not just him).

As to how to make it up... surprise him with a nice dinner and somewhere out in the city - somewhere new that'd be right up his alley. Indulge him a bit. But honestly, the best way to make it up to him will be to knock the work out ASAP to minimize the disruption. Then give him the greatest gift a partner can give while on vacation: you in vacation mode too. :)
posted by stubbehtail at 5:02 PM on July 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

I live in NYC and work in public places (not an office) most of the time, and so I have to deal with this situation just about every time someone (friends, my mother, my long-distance partner) comes to visit. I can only work in three- or four-hour chunks before I burn out. Here is what I do, and no one has yet to complain or otherwise express any ill feelings about it:

1. I don't talk about my work with my visitors. It might remind them of their own work, which defeats the purpose of their vacations. They should focus on their own fun. I don't make a big deal out of having to work. I don't act as though work is more important than my visitors, but I also don't dwell on how much I'd love to spend more time with them, but I just can't (boo hoo).
2. I let them figure out what they would like to do each day. Visitors typically have an agenda of things they would like to do or see -- usually one or two neighborhoods or major attractions per day. I bring my laptop and travel with them on the train or bus, and then I head to the nearest cafe/library/etc. to work a few hours while they do their thing(s). Yelp is pretty good for finding cafes with wifi. Many NYC parks have wifi too.
3. Set a timer, and when it dings, work is over!
4. We meet up after for drinks and dinner and whatever nightlife they choose.

I don't see why the same sort of strategy wouldn't work in your situation too. I think framing it in a positive way will decrease the asshole factor: "Hey, awesome, I'll take the train to MOMA with you and I'll work for a couple of hours in the cafe! We can have a coffee break together! Then I'll hang out for another hour at Starbucks while you do something else! Then we'll meet up and do [that thing we both want to do] and then go to that restaurant you read about. It's win-win!"

OK, maybe not so many exclamation points, but I'm sure you get the gist. I just keep in mind that for whatever reasons (usually my own poor planning), I am choosing to work ... but they are choosing to be on vacation.
posted by quixotictic at 5:06 PM on July 2, 2014 [2 favorites]

I would definitely chug some coffee and do as much as you can tonight on the bus, then do whatever's left tomorrow. As mentioned above, it's supposed to be torrentially raining all day tomorrow anyway. Your boyfriend can visit a museum without you if he gets stir-crazy from being in the apartment, and then you'll have all of Friday/Saturday/Sunday till you leave to spend entirely together, work-free (and hopefully the rain will start letting up a bit at some point).
posted by sunflower16 at 6:28 PM on July 2, 2014

Response by poster: Thanks so much everyone for the ideas! Happily coding away on the Greyhound.
posted by sixswitch at 9:02 PM on July 2, 2014 [2 favorites]

Vineapple is the place you're looking for. It's close to the Borough Hall stop and has plenty of space, food, drinks, outlets, and wifi. More importantly, the cafe space is really comfortable and genuinely built for people plugging away for hours on their laptops. I have seen so, so many papers, dissertations, code, etc. written there. (And written a few, myself.)

You'll need to buy food and drink from them if you're going to park there for half a day (it's not mandatory, just polite) but it's no more expensive than anywhere else in the city.

If Vineapple doesn't work for you for whatever reason, Ted & Honey and 61 Local are additional nearby options that meet your criteria. The former is small and packed in the morning and the latter is a roomy bar and packed after work hours.

Your guy hanging around and reading while you work sounds plausible for a day, but I wouldn't expect that of him every day, and I wouldn't ask that of him either. Especially not when there's plenty for him to do! You could literally walk any direction from Borough Hall and find something interesting. And that's really the best part of visiting NYC: going around and unearthing things for yourself. I would think hard about pushing your deadline back so you can join him on his adventures, so you can share experiences and be present for each other.
posted by greenland at 9:20 PM on July 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

Whatever you choose to do, try to keep the work time to one solid chunk; get everything all squared away, and then rejoin the vacation. I love the idea of traveling together to a museum and him heading into the museum for the afternoon and you heading to a local cafe or workshare location to finish off your coding.

Frankly, I wouldn't worry about playing spoilsport at night by not drinking. If your boyfriend is more of an AM person, this is probably your ideal time to crank out your work.

You know this, but it's worth repeating for your boyfriend's sake: It's awful to be on vacation with someone who's working and can't really enjoy the getaway with you.
posted by yellowcandy at 11:19 PM on July 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

Apologize profusely and spring for another vacation for the two of you during which you can focus on your time with him. (Maybe this isn't a big deal to him because you travel regularly together and he enjoys doing stuff solo, but if you were dating me, I would be devastated that we didn't get the concentrated time together I was expecting.)
posted by metasarah at 4:19 AM on July 3, 2014 [3 favorites]

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