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Saturday, 23 June 2018

Day 56: A sketch in a coffee shop

I had no time today so here is a sketch from the hour before work...

It is an echoey room, woold-floored, cold after the mugginess of the day. The ceiling is covered in industrial pipes and exposed air ducts. The decor is corporate utilitarian chic. It is a chain coffee shop. the tables are chestnut brown, varnished deeply to make the wooden lacquer appear more expensive than it truly is.

There is a female student behind the bar wearing the uniform of this ubiquitous coffee shop, the clothes smudged and dirty from a day on shift. The woman is bow-legged and wears thick-heeled shoes that accentuate the clumsy gait, but she is attractive, with blond hair tied back and deftly applied makeup. She is wearing just this side of too much spray tan. She hitches her trousers up, adjusts her bra strap; she is uncomfortable in her thick cotton apron on this hot day. She is neither friendly nor not.

Another woman comes out from the back carrying a tray of washed utensils. She is plumper than the spray-tanned woman, wears clompy boots, has frizzy hair pulled up in a bun. This woman bangs coffee grounds out into the bin, cleans the coffee machine noncommittally with a damp green cloth. She is the spray-tanned woman's superior, or at least the more experienced of the two. The spray-tanned woman defers to her. The two do not talk much. They work together and they get on but they are not close. They are both getting through the day. They have enough friends. They just want to get through the shift.

A customer hunches over in his low seat and slurps a thick milkshake. His back is curved and he leers down at his milkshake and pokes at it with his straw. He wears a rumpled shirt and brown cords. He looks like the character of Al Bundy from the American sitcom Married... with Children. He has a lanyard round his neck and a messy buzz cut. He is sitting with a woman who has been attending the same conference as him, she chats about work while he stirs his milkshake with his straw.

A wicker basket is filled with plastic water bottles for sale. The wrought-iron stand behind the wicker basket displays the coffee shop's own brand of whole bean and ground coffee for purchase, along with cafetieres, takeout mugs, and a drip-filter jug.

The shop is inoffensive, mildly depressing in its corporate emptiness. There are small touches of humanity, sketches of coffee plants on the walls, colourful paintings, that are precision designed to humanise just enough while meeting the target budget, and are thus all the more inhuman for this. There is a sterility to the environment, a starched, static quality, nothing cruel but certainly mass-produced. This is a pattern of interior design to be repeated a thousand times across the globe, and somewhere within that sits a dark existential horror.

It is not a bad place to find yourself -- there are no edges left after testing and prototyping on which a body could rub. There is nothing wrong. And in this is the revulsion.

This place is carried along by a force that is not human. It is beyond human, it is the Corporate, the force of a creature to which we are but fuel. Not food to be painfully consumed, but plump hens to be kept just warm and content enough to keep laying those eggs. The chain is not run by humans, they answer to a higher power. Human happiness is not of primary concern -- not the customers', not the workers', not the owners'. Humans move through this place, but it is owned by an abstract creature. The Corporate looks after itself.

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