Thursday, May 25, 2006

on spying

i feel like spitting on the sidewalk. remember that? i think it's from an old spook movie, where one older, seasoned spy is showing his newer counterpart the ropes of following and being followed by, well, more spooks. "spit on the sidewalk," he says. when you're being followed and you know you're being followed, a spit on the sidewalk lets the other guy know you know he's following you.

actually, it may be more appropriate to say i would get a good chuckle if one of the baristas here at the place i'm sitting would spit on the floor, or in the drinks they're making, as a clue to me that they're privy to my prying eyes. spying is a fun business. i was thinking about it not long ago because of a thread running through one of my favorite forums. talking about the morality of spying, whether to introduce oneself, if spying is the game, how to go about doing it, how spying annoys the heck out of the spied upon, clumsy oafs who spy dumbly, etc.

anyways, i just got me thinking about that stuff as i'm sitting here "spying" (sort of) in a new, local mcfranchise chain establishment.

now, to be sure, and at risk of sounding overly and unduly full of myself, there's not much here i'm going to "learn" that i didn't know already. that's not the point of my spying. i'm listening as much as looking, getting a feel for the knowledge level of the baristas, the general sounds of the place and the coffee i.q. of the customer base. in fact, i'm getting a little chuckle out of some of the barista-customer interactions i'm overhearing:

customer: i'll take a very large--what is that? 32 ounces?--cafe au lait, please.

barista: [blank stare]

c: ever been to new orleans?

b: uh, no.

c: well, at the cafe du monde in the french quarter they serve cafe au lait's all the time.

b: oh. cool.

c: yeah, they put chicory in 'em.

b: what hurts??

c: chicory. ever heard of that?

b: uh, no. well, maybe. we sell chai.

c: what hurts??

b: chai. it's, uh, this flavor we put in our drinks. see? here's the bottle. we just put like nine pumps of this stuff in any of our drinks. it's really good.

c: what's it like?

b: well, it's very unique. it's kind of a sweet flavor with, er, well, here. the label says: cloves, high fructose corn syrup, essence of...

c: well, that's okay. i get the picture. hey, maybe you can add some to my coffee.

b: yeah, sure. oh that sounds tasty.

c: [sipping his cafe au chailait] yes, very much.

b: you like?

c: well, er, it, uh, has a different taste to it, doesn't it?

b: oh yeah, you can add it to anything.

c: right. it kinda changes the overall feel of the cafe au lait. and it sort of changes flavor with each sip.

b: maybe i should've stirred it.

c: [looking slightly let down by the experience of bottled chai syrup] well, alright.

b: well, hey, if you don't like it i can make you a different something with chai in it.

c: how 'bout just another cafe au lait without chai?

b: [confused look at the prospect of customer not immediately warming up to chai syrup] uh, sure. yeah, okay.

...and so forth. certainly not high crimes and misdemeanors. but not exactly winning any awards for enlightened service experiences. just another spring-up-out-of-nowhere-coffeehouse-blowup-kit-now-serving-"coffee."

which gets me thinking. there are essentially two kinds of coffee establishments: sbux wannabe's and antisbux reactionaries. the former look at big green, spy maybe, for a bit, and then posit, "i can do that. let's be just like 'em." only they're not. they're bad knockoffs of an increasingly sterile multinational chain. the latter says, "we want to be as different from you-know-who as we can be," and sets about being (sometimes militantly) radically different, complete with duct taped sofas, cobwebs in every corner and cheese caked up on the steam wands. different, indeed. call it local flavor.

well, maybe there are three kinds. there are those who are indifferent to big green, either by choice or out of ignorance--i.e., they either understand the game and don't live within the circle of influence of the siren's call, living and moving and having their being on their own terms, or else they live in east chapippee and have no sbux and no prospect of getting one any time soon. the first portion of this third group is where all the fun is, in my opinion. i won't go into all of those types of details, since if you're reading this you already know me personally and have heard the sermons, or you know the game better than i do.

my point with all this is that i'm just having fun sitting in this window facing the road, counting cars at 6:45am (well, it's now a little later than that), because i'm meeting with a landlord for a place right across the street and i'm just doing due diligence on the prospects. the traffic is there. and here at 9:30am the folks are in here. there are some 15 people in here sitting with drinks, papers, notebooks (like me), etc. if you build it, they will come, is i guess the mantra to keep reciting. and the person who seems like the franchisee keeps walking by, wondering, i'm sure, why i'm continuously gazing out the window, quietly tapping the "1" button on my computer. i've already got my line worked out: "i'm not spying on you and counting cars here...i'm a computer programmer. these are digital ones and zeros of the code i'm writing. so far, no zeros in the code."

actually, a more fun response might be: "hi, i'm aaron. i'm counting cars from your place because i'm thinking of opening a spot over there across the street that would be your main competitor and, hopefully, suck out the marrow of your current business flow."

hey, at least i'm buying drinks every half hour or so, paying for my spot.

i'll keep you posted on how it all goes down. meantime, maybe i should get a spitoon for all the times i've spit on the floor here.


Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home