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Posted at 10:27 PM ET, 01/27/2011

The powerless plug in at Starbucks

By Dan Morse

Neuroscientist Aaron White was behind on revisions to his latest book about the brain.

Transportation consultant Nick Owens had to figure out how to move large shipments of manufactured houses safely across several states.

And Stephanie Warner, a public health professional, was pulling together regulatory documents for a nationwide influenza research project.

They are a cross section of Montgomery County’s highly educated workforce. And on Thursday – desperately in search of electricity, the Internet, battery charging or all of the above – they decamped at the Starbucks in downtown Rockville.

“I came here to get power,” said White, who showed up at the Starbucks after a night of no heat in his Rockville residence.

His request to the barista: “I need something that’s sweet and hot and has lots of caffeine.”

By 2:30 p.m. Thursday, he was cranking away on revisions to his book about young brains. He holds a PhD in neuroscience and works for the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

Sharing his power outlet, one table away, was Warner, sipping a Grande Zen Tea, and putting together the influenza research information. She still has power at her townhouse, four blocks away, but no Internet.

“There’s a tree on the cable,” she said.

The three were among more than a dozen people plugged into Starbucks. Many had reports due for clients in other parts of the country, or had come in for conference calls with clients in other states – where work-life was going on as normal.

“Where are you?” Cynthia Williams, a marketing specialist, was asked during a conference call as Latin music played in the background.

Near Williams sat Janet Reilly, 44, a fitness/wellness consultant working on a feasibility study for construction of a YMCA in Florida, where she lived until two months ago. She got a text from a friend down there: “This is why u originally came to the sunshine state … sunny in 60s here today. How ya doing?”

See video with this story.

By Dan Morse  | January 27, 2011; 10:27 PM ET
Categories:  Maryland  
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