automatic emptiness

i was early to meet a friend for pre-koyaanisqatsi dinner the other night on the upper west side.  i stopped at a starbucks for a cappuccino because i had not had enough sleep the past two nights, and i didn’t want to fall asleep during the performance.  starbucks is an unappealing last resort for many reasons, one being that they’ve automated steamed milk.  so, while i’m waiting for my cappuccino, the barista is off making other drinks.  meanwhile, the espresso sits in the bottom of the cup getting stale and the milk has been abandoned.  i wasn’t even sure my drink was being made because she was so busy doing other things.  it wasn’t until she came back, grabbed the milk that had been steaming on its own, poured it into a cup, and called out my name that i knew i hadn’t been forgotten.

one could argue that since i’m drinking this beverage out of a paper cup the quality is compromised anyway.  i would agree, but i didn’t have time to sit and drink it in a ceramic cup.   just because one aspect is compromised doesn’t mean the whole effort should be thrown out.   to me, the worst part of an automated cappuccino is that it’s lacking the love and art that goes into preparing it.  it isn’t just that the machine didn’t make it as well as a human could have, it’s empty and void.  it lacks the minute and a half of personal attention from a vibrating human.  so while i still achieved my goal through the ingestion of the drug that would keep me awake for philip glass, there was an emptiness in drinking it.   even holding it, there was just nothing special or magical about this $3 drink.  i’ve worked as a barista more than once (one stint at a starbucks in the days before automated steaming), and steaming milk was always the best part of the job.  it gave me a moment to meditate.   it connected me to the person who was about to enjoy it.

the same thing happens with anything we put in our bodies and our lives.  that’s why it’s so important to cook our own meals with love and sit down to eat them.   sharing them is even better.  eating and sharing meals that have been created with love fills us in a way that an automated machine cannot.


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