Friday, July 8, 2011

The take-away lifestyle (23 Sept. 2008)

One of the things that immediately struck me as odd in Ljubljana was the sight of cafes advertising that they had "take-away coffee." It hadn't occurred to me that this would be anything other than a standard feature designed to meet a universal expectation, but it quickly became apparent that the need to be carrying food and beverages around to be consumed on the go does not afflict everyone.

I certainly find it more convenient not to have to sit down and sip an espresso every time I want to have coffee, but the side of me that rails against convenience as the essence of consumerism's many ills made me yearn to embrace the cafe culture, an impulse much easier to accommodate when on vacation. When there is no "to go" available, the entire infrastructure of everyday life changes, and time must be allocated in a completely different way, one that privileges the sanctity of civilized rituals of shared meals and conversation over the brute capacity to consume more simultaneously and the errant belief that life can be improved through a sheer quantitative increase of stuff consumed. As I've been arguing over and over in recent posts, the capacity to consume more becomes a kind of relentless pressure to squeeze more in, and quantity-consumption occludes the possibility of quality experience. A culture that spurns take-away cups and such works to release that pressure, or rather it helps prevent it from building up. It mandates coffee breaks and other inefficiencies that may serve to make life tolerable.

But over the week we spent in Slovenia, we never quite got used to it, and we found ourselves doing such quintessentially American things like eating bags of chips and impromptu pršut sandwiches in our rental car (which even had an automatic transmission, for good measure). It makes me afraid that it just might be too late for me to save myself from the evils of which I complain.

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