C A F E A U L A I T:
O U R R E P O R T E R G O E S
U N D E R C O V E R, T O
I N V E S T I G A T E T H E W O R L D
O F C O F F E E S L U G S
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Sam Smilbone has worked in the journalism field all his life. He started as
a cub reporter for the Harps Foods Newsletter, and moved up the ranks to
weekly contributor in 1969, where he focused on enviornmental and political
issues affecting Harps foods cashiers and carry-boys. In 1975, Smilbone
moved to New York City, where he fell in with such Conceptual Greats as
Adrian Piper and Jan Isner (known for her 'Excremental Series' fliers seen
downtown in the Summer of 1988). Today, Smilbone writes for a wide number
of paying magazines, and takes care of his children. His favorite singer is
Bob Dylan. We convinced Sam to go undercover as a Barista, and report to
us, from time to time, on his experiences. In the future, he will choose
specific events and arrange them to demonstrate our country's problems, but
today was his first day. He is tired from standing on his feet all day, and
so his wife has agreed to type out his notes, which he kept on Starbucks
I am given a hat and an apron. The apron is a little tight. The hat
sweats. I am given a time card, and my trainer, Michelle shows me how to
operate the machine. Michelle is like a fifteen year old Joni Mitchell,
very spiritual. The rest of my coworkers are stuck-up hot-shot
intellectuals. I doubt a single one of them has ever been high.
I'm shown how to operate the bean grinder. My hemp heart chakra bracelet
falls in and makes a noise like a weasel caught in a weed whacker. Tom
narcs on me to Michelle, which is totally uncool, and I make it clear I
think so, by giving him the vibe. My bracelet is beyond repair.
Operating the espresso machine makes me feel like a machine. That wrist
motion is so capitalist. All of this cow product -- it really tells you
something about the American people that they nurse (off cows no less) their
entire lives -- they don't even seem to notice the terrible charring smell
of scalded milk until they put the swill to their lips. These businessmen
in their suits, the way they treat cows and don't tip. Hooking cows up to
machines! Living animals! My boss, Len, tells me I need to move faster.
The whole thing is very un-Ram Dass.
If we break a cookie, we put it out for a sample. People are so lonely and
afraid, they take more than one sample. They think they can nourish
themselves by taking love, by taking in. They'll take like four pieces of
the sample intended for everyone. I get high on my lunch hour, which is
clarifying. I can make friends with that; I can help people. When they
take samples, I whisper, "I love you." It seems to work. Some don't even
take the cookie they've touched, others leave without their milk drinks.
By four I am exhausted, I mean really blown. It's nice to know how the
working man feels, but I'm really bummed about the way Michelle took out her
insecurities on me. When I'm carrying the garbage out, I bump into a
Mexican. We exchange fraternal glances, like brothers. I am thinking of
developing a line of shoes specifically for children, with softer toes and
brighter colors, also smaller to fit their feet. I'd call them 'Kid Shoes.'
Seven comes and I am out of here. I remove my cap and apron and clock
myself out. As I'm training, I don't get tips. I don't let it get to me.
Everything is cool.