Are we consuming culture or is culture consuming us? I recently quit my job at a “French” themed cafe in Yorkville. A relief yes, but also sad because the things I’ve witnessed at this job have been a wonderful source of material for me. I served coffee and various other drinks as the cafe’s barista or sorry ahem… “bro-ista” as my macho co-worker insisted. I also sold pastries including fresh breads made daily. These were some good pastries and breads, but little did I know just how popular they were. Everyday day around noon, our lunch rush would occur and we could expect a line out the door of hungry Mom’s with strollers, hairstylists from the local salons and various business types with little time for anyone. This isn’t a story about the mentally insane people who entered the store… this is a story about the mentally insane people who entered the store, just these one’s dressed in Armani suits / Alexander McQueen dresses.
I’m not sure what’s acting on our desires, but man we’ve developed some strange needs. I often had customers who would order a “fresh ancient grain baguette” and before they had even completed the transaction, they had taken a bite right off the end of the thing. Really? They weren’t going to die of starvation right in front of me I know that much. I even had one woman reach tears when I explained to her for the 3rd time in a row that we were simply out of chocolate éclairs. Hey I like a good “PAIN au chocolate” as much as the next person, but people are dyeing out there, people are dyeing out front of the Tim Hortons just down the street. We all know this, but the bigger question I have is what force is working on us? What’s setting this up in the way we identify? The economy, capitalism, consumer culture, social media… We continue to eroticize foreign culture for our consumption made available to the highest bidder. This French themed café appeals to our desires, but why is this a desire of ours at all?
It’s also about expectation. We have come to expect certain levels of service and comfort. There was one dark and horrible week in which we ordered in the wrong set of lids for our to-go cups… dear lord is there no God! Instead of dome lids (the one’s you also find at starbucks) we had the lowly low tim hortans style flat lids. I had several customers refuse to buy their drink when it was revealed to them that we were out of dome lids, “I won’t drink that, where’s the dome lid? This effects the coffee experience!” Really? We’ve hit an all time low and who’s going to do anything about it? It’s so ingrained in our lifestyle that even the fight against war and cancer seem more feasible.
I think, oh I don’t know anymore, it’s just too much to handle… I just, I just need a baguette… you know to make everything… just a little bit better. Maybe then I’ll feel up to tackling society tomorrow…