Would you like a shot of George Orwell with your latte?
I go into Starbucks to get my pre shift daily fix when I notice a strange plastic object hanging over the register.
“What’s that thing?” I ask my nose ringed tattooed hipster barista.
“A video camera.” he replies flatly.
“A what?” I say incredulously.
“A video camera with a live feed to corporate in Seattle.” he says with the perfect blend of surliness and cynicism I’ve come to expect from Starbucks employees.
“Is it to make sure you guys don’t steal from the till?”
“That and to observe customer buying habits.” he replies looking bored.
“Does it cover the entire store or just the register?” I wonder.
“It covers the employee area and customers at the register. It even has audio. Seattle can hear every thing we say.” Grinning he looks up at the camera and loudly adds, “Those assholes.”
I look around while the kid gets my coffee. Several soccer moms are chatting. A student looks up from his copy of Camus to scope chicks. A tired looking man slumps in an easy chair pecking away on his laptop, studiously attempting to look busy. Ray Charles plays softly in the background. Everyone is drinking over priced caffeinated chemistry experiments trying to look like what some marketing hack in Seattle tells them is cool. They are being watched, analyzed, and dissected down to the last dollar and they don’t even know it.
Suddenly I don’t like Starbucks anymore.
I get my coffee, throw some change in the tip jar (to insure my waiter karma) and flip the camera the bird.
“Later man.” I say to the barista. He is smiling. He flips off the camera too.