I dream of you, chips chips chips, du du du du du
It was just a song, but one that Starbucks seemed to have on a tight loop. Every time I’d walk into one of the four Starbucks I had on rotation I’d hear the song – I’d hear it twenty times.
The first few times I heard that old crooner belting out the difficult-to-understand lyrics, I enjoyed myself. Old timey music in a coffee shop is not unexpected, and not even unwelcome. Plus, I’d never heard this particular song before. For a coffee giant renowned for doing whatever pleased the masses, hearing something new was a pleasure.
Trying to do work, I didn’t mind the background drone of sappy, pappy romantic lyrics. After the first few times around that four song playlist I didn’t even notice the music anymore. I was lost in my own world, my brain was occupied with the computer code slipping from my fingertips.
At some point, however, my subconscious started sending up warning signals. If ears could get repetitive stress injury, mine were getting carpal-tunnel. I walked in three hours earlier and the four song playlist, looping approximately every 20 minutes, was still on repeat. It was time to find a new study spot.
Over the next month I’d hear the playlist on every visit to a Starbucks.
Cuz I……… ain’t got no b-ahhhhhhh-dy, and there’s nobody cares for me
I get it Louis Prima, you’re just a gigolo. Fine man, I don’t judge.
Hey mambo, mambo Italiano, HEY MAMBO, MAMBO ITALIANO
After a while they weren’t singing to me, they were clearly instructing me to do something. “Hey you, get up and mambo like an Italian.” I was not about to mambo Italiano, but I was having a hard time concentrating. Each time I could brush it off for a little while, but eventually the music would get to me and I’d have to leave. I visited some of the locally-owned coffee shops, but the convenience of -bucks kept drawing me back a few times each week.
One evening I was the last person left in the store. The staff had retreated to a back room to clean up before closing time, presumably. By then I was a regular at this place, surely they wouldn’t mind changing the music for a bit. They were stuck there all day, the music must get exhausting…
I walked to the edge of the counter and peered around it, towards the back room, trying to avoid breaking the sacred invisible barrier between corporate and customer. “Hey, you guys back there?”
There was no response. I was sure I had just become that pestering, asshole customer who was interfering with the end-of-day rituals. Underneath the swinging door leading to the back room I could see the blue glow of a bug light. “Anybody home?” I was already the asshole, I might as well try to redeem myself with ingratiatingly-pitiful humor. Still no response.
I decided to break the unwritten rule and venture past the invisible barrier. I looked over the swinging door. There was no bug light, in its place were four metal cylinders with one foot-square windows. A UV-blue light was coming from three of the windows. Only an exterior service door led out of the room, where had the employees gone?
I pushed through the swinging door and walked over to the closest six-foot tall cylinder.
HEY MAMBO, MAMBO ITALIANO
The music was louder back there, and I couldn’t resist shaking my butt a bit. I wasn’t sure what a mambo was exactly, but Lou Bega had assured me that there were at least five different types, so I was probably accidentally doing one of them.
The impulse became an imperative as the volume grew, and I felt unable to stop mamboing. My arms were just shaking rhythmically then, and one leg was doing the stanky while the other was doing the twist. This was no known dance, and definitely not a mambo. I was close enough to see into one of the cylinders now, and Clara stared back at me.
When the end comes I know, there was just a gigolo, life goes on without me.
In the past I’d wondered if I knew how to make the latte, the cappucino, and the double-shot chai, because I had watched the baristas so many times. Apparently I do. I see my body below me serving customers, pulling espresso shots, blending frapps. I have no control over the extremities, though I seem to be using the same silly cordialities I used in life – “take it easy, man,” then a peace sign as they look over their shoulder and exit. I don’t know what I’ll do now, but this limbo my conscious is in isn’t too bad. I might even say,
It’s wonderful, wonderful, it’s wonderful, ha-chaddita-cha