Saturday, June 20, 2009

Corporate Coffee still sucks



It's Saturday morning in Hobart and I feel old. The effervescent youthful hyperkinetic balls of youthful energy with perfect hair and teeth are loud and proud and listening to IPODs and fitfully recounting energetic nights out in a coffee shop queue while I stand like their shambling old Dad, or so I feel, and while I can engage them in conversation about Ladyhawke and Lily Allen I'm far too much a laconic laborer through life, a product of a laconic care little generation, to feel as excitable as they do at this time of the morning. To be honest, they wouldn't talk to me because I know from accumulated wisdom their tales of sex and drugs are simply over-exaggerated re-heats, like the ones I used to tell whenever I came back from the United Kingdom. They display a disturbing attraction to tracksuit trousers though, I will say that from my unscientific anthropological study over a re-heated and distinctly reheated cup of java that they, and I'm now old enough to say the young folk, lack a certain surety. I'm pretty sure when I told my over exaggerated stories about wild nights out at Regines, I believed what I was saying, I rehearsed my own hype. These young uns don't even seem to have a definitive ending flourish beyond I got in a taxi with someone and nudge nudge. The alpha female of this maruading pack of style and affordly priced cotton is called Chrissi, which I know because her acolytes seem to spend the entire time chanting a refrain that Chrissi is so bad, emphasising the final d with a Warrane hiss, as she preens and gathers macchiatos in her morning tracksuit, a devil may care attitude to hair care present as her bed hair piles lushly on top of itself. I search for some clue as to why anyone would follow her so slavishly - fashion, hair, the pace of her stories, a suspiciously dodgy Fonzie style attitude towards hooking up. Some sort of tiny glimpse as to why her mere presence inspires such chatter, and why a much prettier girl up the back is so quiet and rapt just to be there. I think I narrowed it down to 2wo things by the time I left. Either her tattoo, the one on her hand that was obviously too hip for me to work out was some sort of homing beacon, or the fact that she was quite prepared to open up a thick wallet full of green 100dred dollar notes and spread her largesse as well as her stories. I might be mistaken with my old man eyes, but I'm sure when she was relating her tale of thumping techno pashes, the prettiest girl up the back wasn't paying the slightest bit of attention to anything but nudging the girl next to her and rolling her eyes, although I'm sure she was incredibly greatful for the coffee, doled out with genuine store bought friendship and love...

The coffee shop is called Zuba - which I think is Greek for lukewarm - and the pace of the day is yet to really hit me. The lukewarm corporate brewed served with a grimace coffee washes down my throat with a brisk burning sensation anticipated, but it never arrives, as instead a sugary mess that isn't quite sugary enough doesn't so much slide down the throat as slowly trudge apologetically. Maybe I shouldn't blame the coffee, so much as a mindset that anything before 11even AM is intrinsically evil and wrong. Still when you decide to make it your mission to get out of the house, away from the hammock to see what Hobart has to offer, and people make you follow up on it, there's not much you can do about it. The girl behind the counter seems a horrible corporate hybrid of store trained service and toothy smiles, before turning around to give one of her underlings what we used to call a right bollocking in less enlightened times. Out of the corner of my wandering lazy eye I see someone I know - I wish I was better in situations where small talk is required but I'm just not, I always feel like I'm drowning in inarticulate 1/2lf thought out sentences and boring sentiment. I've actually got a friend who's lack of grammatical excellence drags me down to their level, until I'm speaking in tongues and saying words I don't even know with an extra Tasmanian syllable tagged on at the end. Although this friend has far more self confidence, our conversation is horrible, mostly because I'm trying to get away, uneasy and unsure of myself and apprehensive of any pauses in the conversation, trying to desperately fill them in the same way I've tried to fill in the lack of taste in my coffee with an overabundance of sugar. To my chagrin, just to fill in time I offer myself up for some conversational self deprecation, which I instantly regret. I make a mental note to talk myself up not down in future interactions, given the relative secrets I know about this friend, which when known rather falsify his self confidence. We part with a real commitment to keep in touch more just as the chastened girl who received the bollocking is forced by the horrible constraints of retail to get back on the horse, and under supervision remember that above all else when you sell the horrible coffee, sell the horrible biscuits at the same time...no matter what you do, sell the horrible biscuits...

When I was young, there was a coffee shop in the Plaza Arcade in Burnie, and while I couldn't tell you the name which is lost to time sadly, I could tell you it was where I would go like Norm in Cheers for a sympathetic ear whenever I was stuck working at Coles, and didn't feel like getting a relatively sympathetic nod from the car park prostitutes I saw when I was shoving trolleys around and trying to scav up my lunch money. Whenever I would get my own bollocking from one of the bitter desk bound middle agers behind the cigarette counter, or when life was getting me down, I could guarantee there would at least be coffee. When I emerged from the middle 90tys with a sudden and quite unexpected group of friends, I went through quite a strange change in my life, as suddenly I was forced to make decisions about myself. Not obviously whether I wanted to be good at school or getting myself fit, oh god no, but what I had to represent when someone asked me what music I liked or whenever I had to go outside dressed in fashionable clothes. I decided it would be a good idea to drink coffee, not just for the sympathetic ear but because it seemed all the trendy people of the era were doing it, although it was somewhat ironic if you remember 1996 that when I drank coffee, it was entirely a solitary experience given the popular TV show of the era. I also smoked cigars, listened religiously to trendy music and became a person that I really will never recognise, just because it felt like that was what I was supposed to be like to fit in. My coffee drinking era though came to a crashing halt just before I moved out of Burnie when the shop had a change of owner, and became less of a haven for enlightened thinking and personal space and more of a terrible nightmare with mood music, overly bright lighting, fudge brownies replaced with tofu laced creations that seemed to glow with evil under the lights, and worse of all communal sofas. It was completely Starbuckked up, before anyone used the phrase. 1ne night at rockclimbing though, I was able to entrance an entire audience simply through a line of university approved anti corporate sentiment. I was fully aware I was talking out of my hat - or beanie at the time, it was rock climbing - but I figured whatever I said, it was enthralling. Interestingly, it was part of a much wider malaise, where I really couldn't figure out whether I actually liked things or trained myself to like things, but I never went into that coffee shop again, and my fortress of solitude became the Coles pay office, which you could sneak into with the right preperation, and there I would sit without mood lighting, but with a horrible carpet with little staticy suckers on it if you dragged your Clarks shoes across the floor and touched something metallic. I definitely learned that sticking it to the man generally involved sitting on the floor alone and miserable while everyone else got on with corporate approved life. Oh well, I guess I showed them and their tofulicious ways...

Chrissi clicks her fingers and her cabal of tracksuited troops leave without finishing off their frothy lattes and departing with Adidas trainers and store bought bling clangling in an inelegant rush to a fleet of taxis. I myself am overly late for an appointment, but obviously the coffee is so delicious that I can't imagine anyone rushing away from it, while across the road a hippy guy is emerging from a bookshop weighed down by his own dreadlocks and the biggest bag of books I've ever seen anyone carry. I would grab him and discuss the effects of corporatisation on our culture, but he is rocking some very fine NIKE shoes, so I don't think he'd listen. A fat hipped Fijian table cleaner asks if I enjoyed my coffee and I say I do, taking a gulp of the foul liquid as I do and doing an unconvincing Macca thumbs aloft to confirm it. Guess I never did learn to stop liking things for the approval of others. I leave, with my only tip being don't give up your day job to the girl behind the counter, smiling like a benny as I go so everyone knows I really enjoyed the coffee, and wander down to the mall dressed in a less than fashionable waterproof jacket in anticipation of rain that never comes. There's a desolate and desconsolate girl Friday on the bench next to me, no older than 15teen, with mascara stained cheeks sobbing hard with her head in her hands. Her IPOD and mobile phone are set beside her, available even the most inept thief to lift. She picks up her mobile phone and studies it for a moment then begins crying again while her friend comes back with a bottle of Red Eye and looks as uncomfortable as someone listening to my anti corporate speech. She looks at me, I look at her and shrug, although I think she wanted the voice of experience to come over and say some words to fix the tears. Sadly my experience in trying to cheer up a crying girl mostly involves offering her a Butter Menthol, so I turn away and shift uneasily listening to Shakira as I do so. I have a strange, long ago flash back to all those tears years ago, all that angst, all that wasted angst, although it wasn't messaged by txt msg, it was face to face, but the result was the same. I hope she gets through it, and I know she will, but it doesn't make having to listen to her any easier or less poignant. So I head in the direction of another coffee shop, since my lift is running late, and sit down to enjoy a coffee from a nicer shop with prettier waitresses, a nicely drawn chalk board, and absolutely no music, none whatsover, absolutely no Presets...which I always am very relived about...

That the coffee is even worse, of course, is just between you, me and Naomi Klein...

7 comments:

sparsely kate said...

Miles you are on fire!! I loved that post so much - awesome writing.

Kath Lockett said...

"The coffee shop is called Zuba - which I think is Greek for lukewarm" BEAUTIFUL!

Oh and I know I'm a child of '68 but that song accompanying this blog article is hideous...Oh, wait, it's *meant* to be, isn't it?

....isn't it?????

Miles McClagan said...

Ah, it was nothing - or it was the crappy coffee...1ne of the 2wo...

Well, it's Graham trying to sing live...I will say, I used to love Blur...and leave it at that...it loses something without the milk carton clip?

Samantha said...

That instinctive urge to please is so hard to fight - I'd have done the same.

I am sneaky reading your blog at work where we are not supposed to be using the computers for personal stuff whilst nobody is here cause my computer sticky net thing broked - mwahahahahahahaha

How do you feel about your new status as forbidden fruit?

Miles McClagan said...

I like it, it beats the hell out of being a forbidden vegetable...

Having been the cause of obesity in the last post and now work slacking, I'm feeling good!

Rebecca said...

The one next to the sludgy green waterfall with the big NO LOITERING sign that all the yobs used to sit and smoke under was called Sashas.

The one upstairs from that, where elderly folk glared condemnation at the aforementioned yobs as they sipped their Earl Grey or cappuccinos or whatever was 1990's version of a latte was called Poppets.

Can't say I remember either of those places going all tofu-couch-like... I thought that vibe was strictly reserved for Kinesis.

Miles McClagan said...

I just felt like they ALL went like that in the late 90tys...remember when Fruitopia came out? Everyone suddenly started quoting it like it was a mantra, and adding healthy alternatives?

In Penguin, the milk bar got freaking Lattes on the menu!

Poppets, I think I remember that, I might have ordered a tea in there drunk one day...maybe? It was pretty rock and roll!