Can A Distributed Network Of Lone-Wolf Amateur Entrepreneurs Crowd-Fund Starbucks And Turn A Profit Before Exhausting Social Welfare Safety Nets?
I have recently found myself without an office. This blows. Why? Because with it I have lost my innocence. I'm no longer sheltered from the frightening reality of Wi-Fi Zombies. Turns out, Starbucks has undergone a massive transformation through this great recession. Once an overpriced coffee shop, they've emerged an overpopulated Hooverville, wreaking of bacon and toilet smells to boot.
This is not hyperbole. I'm sitting between two homeless guys who have very obviously moved in. One has some sort of art thing going on. The other has either invented a new form of math or is schizophrenic. No matter. They both have laptops and Starbucks cups, which makes them fully documented citizens in this place. Turns out, it's those same two things, and ONLY those two things, that make me a fully documented citizen here also. Despite this being my first... time.
So, imagine you're you. You stroll on in to Starbucks, go through the motions. You know 'em: Dart your eyes, assess the line, search for power-outlet-adjacent seating, check if the bathroom is free. You glance past me without missing a beat.
I'm babbling to myself, coffee stains on my shirt, slamming my keyboard.
Steer clear, he's one of them.
If I ask you a question, you'll pretend you're in a stare, in deep concentration, listening to your headphones, something. Anything, so you don't have to acknowledge the lunatic. Cuz that might open a veritable Pandora's box of inappropriate conversation, sexual advances and assumed association with said lunatic by your fellow Wi-Fi zombies.
But wait, I'm one of you!
Now turn the tables. I look up from my coffee-stained macBook. I say, "Excuse me, I'm supposed to meet a friend at the Starbucks near Robertson. I'm new at this, but by my approximation, there are six of them. Would you say this is accepted as the correct one?"
You quickly press the button on your EarPod and pretend to be in deep conversation as you stare off into the mass-produced pop-art hanging on the wall.
Yikes, you're one of them.
"Who is this lunatic?" I ask myself. As if I didn't just ask a reasonable question pertaining to Wi-Fi zombie culture? This one must be damaged, I think. Or escaped from the laughing academy? Perhaps a trust-fund schizophrenic with that coffee-stained shirt and fancy iPhone 5?
I've read about this.
One has been living in the alley for years. He screams, "fuck" all night until he can't any more, but he only smokes Nat Shermans. He'll fight you if you offer him anything but.
He's one of us, too. Deal with it.
And that's where it gets really confusing. Look at you, you smug upstanding member of society with your good Wi-Fi zombie manners, macBook and debit card. The screamer enters on rollerskates and mutters, "cunt" under his breath with impressive restraint.
You shake your head in disgust as he moves toward the cashier with his Platinum American Express card. There goes the neighborhood, you say. His patronage isn't welcome here. Where's his macBook? He doesn't even have a cup!
He buys sixteen danishes and a blueberry scone on his AMEX. He stuffs the scone in his bicycle shorts, call the trashcan a "Hajji" and leaves.
"Can you believe this guy?" you say, as you get up to ask the barista to refill your ice water.
I quickly look away, careful not to make eye contact.