Alya was typing frantically into the terminal, checking in code at the eleventh hour, right before midnight for the big launch. The ex-model turned software engineer who went on to become the lead on a project hit the commit button just in time. The wheels were set in motion, soon others across the world would read and review her code, hit approve. It would then get deployed, tested against code written by more people, halfway across the blue sphere, sipping their morning chai. As electrons buzzed, her code would then go, flashing across LED screens, tempting viewers with warmth and comfort, and the promise of romance this Autumn. She wondered how amazing it was, that the world was connected in magical ways through zeros and ones, and how those same two digits took her life from a zero, back to a full one. In an interesting twist, she was using Java, to sell Java.
Kumar too wondered about zeros and ones as he sipped his ginger chai on this warm autumn morning. Rustic fall colors and chilly winds were not as common in his part of the world, yet his code tested images of maple leaves and pumpkins and cinnamon. There were no maple leaves where he lived, only underpaid and exploited computer programmers. In some ways he wondered if his life had gone from a one to a zero, as he saw Alya’s commit message, “Bug | JAVA-2424 | Finally y’all, got it fixed. Test it out pls, I’m off to bed. And Good Morning!” He chuckled though, seemingly amused by this message and his own plight. feeling of selling out. This time two years back, his code was literally reaching the moon. He remembered a conversation with his friend at night by the chaiwala (tea seller), talking about his code powering the Moon Mission, Chandrayaan. One year later, he had moved on. He had taken a new position, and rose fast within his team. He went on to do what some would call bigger things. He had now become, in some ways, a chaiwala. Or at least the person who wrote the code that tested the code of the world’s biggest, billion dollar chaiwala. At least the pay was better than a government scientist’s and his new apartment was not subject to power cuts as before. He felt like a sellout. The anxiety was kicking in, but he could afford a therapist now thanks to his chaiwala salary. He hit, “Approve and deploy.” The website went live. Notifications popper up on screens back on the other side of the world. He leaned back and continued to sip his ginger chai. He was anxious, but he was earning his bonus in full this year.
Nora felt anxious too, as she walked the notification toaster flashed on her screen, “Introducing our Autumn Sips” flashed the notification toaster on Nora’s phone. “Damn me for allowing coffee shop apps to send me marketing notifications”, she mumbled as she walked out of Dr Solomon’s office with a refill prescription. A nice Pumpkin Spice Latte would be the perfect pick me up for this rather gray Seattle afternoon. As she walked in and ordered her drink, she noticed a crowd gather at the corner of the ship around some sort of makeshift stage. She wondered what it was and walked towards the crowd. Something in about the company of strangers was oddly comforting. As was the smell of hot coffee and pumpkin and cinnamon. Her drink arrived. She took a sip, took a breath and reassured herself that all was well. The whipped cream on top with sweet syrup drizzle was delicious. It made her smile, as did the figure of a rather attractive woman with wavy hair, dressed in all black tights, black turtleneck and combat boots. She looked like a secret service agent from a TV show. Nora mustered up the courage to make casual conversation, her pill and the coffee were kicking in as she asked, “Hey, what’s going on here?”
“He’s a famous puppeteer, and he is doing a free show as part of a launch event for their new coffee’s or something..” replied the lady with a smile. “He’s pretty good. And I got at least an hour to kill before my work day begins. I’m Daisy by the way, and I love your shirt! “ she said with genuine admiration of Nora’s Peter Pan T-shirt. Nora smiled back, she wasn’t used to small talk, and complements made her feel awkward, especially from someone she was clearly attracted to. They continued to watch the puppet show and chat. She found that it did not take much effort with Daisy. Their connection was instant, as they chatted about books and music and their favorite autumn coffee flavors. They had both seen the notification pop up on their phone around the same time, and tempted by the advertisement, walked into the store. They chatted about how these giant coffee chains made money launching sugary syrup drinks, yet how they loved each one of them. All the digital marketing and social media hype, they agreed that code had taken over their lives. Instagram accounts were followed and selfies taken as the afternoon passed with warm coffee, warmer conversation and an entertaining puppet show.
The puppeteer bowed and thanked the crowd. He was handed an Autumn Maple Latte, which he sipped, made a statement about how delicious his new favorite drink was, with his well practiced smile. It was all part of the act, he was paid very well to perform and endorse this artificially flavored beverage. At least this way his son could go to a fancy private school and he could drive a Porsche. After spending time in a war and struggling for work, doing what he loved, playing with puppets and making money while drinking coffee was not bad at all he thought. The crowd moved closer for autographs, the orders flew in, and somewhere else in different time zones, Alya and Kumar were getting paid for a successful coffee campaign launch.
The tall man at the other end of the store looked at the puppeteer, checked his watch and then spoke into his in-ear communication device, “Laser to Quake, repeat, Laser to Quake. It’s time, follow the asset, I repeat follow the asset. Daisy gave Nora a hug and said it was time for her shift, as she made her way out of the coffee shop into the street. It was pouring, the puppeteer got into his Porshe, which a valet delivered. Laser pulled up in front of her in a blacked out SUV with dark tinted windows. She got in as it started to drive. Meanwhile, Nora sat smiling alone at the table as the shop got more and more crowded. “Mind if we sit here?” asked a tired looking college kid in a large hoodie. He stood next to a girl that looked hung over, or worse. “Please do, I was just leaving anyway.” replied Nora and started to walk off. “And I’d recommend the Ginger Spice Chai for that hangover” Nora winked and smiled in a sudden unexpected burst of confidence as she walked out of the shop.
“That was one long day at work and I have a solid headache!” exclaimed Aly. “Haha babe, I doubt it was the work day. You have got to stop hanging out with Lucy in the sky with…you know!” smirked her companion. “Here sip on this Ginger Chair the lady recommended, it gets us double points on this order today.” Aly frowned at his remark, she appeared irritated at his nonchalant behavior and was surprised how their work did not frustrate him. Her recreational explorations were mostly out of frustration and boredom with a life in first world paradise. “How do you do it, keep yourself sane with this job?” she asked him. He smiled, “See, what you see as painful and mundane Aly, I see as opportunity. Where I grew up, it was a dream to even be here. Our bill for these drinks and pastries would be a month’s salary if I had not come to study here. And it was literally my revolving balance while in school here. I worked behind the counter at this very coffee shop, and the free drinks and food were worth more than my pay. So yeah, I don’t mind our jobs Aly.” he smiled. Aly smiled back, “Thanks for the perspective. In my life of privilege it is easy to forget how special simple things can be. I’m glad it is Fall though, the colors are beautiful, the smell of sweet and spicy coffee is amazing and I think I am finally going to come down from this rush I have been feeling.” She shivered and smiled, feeling connected to everything and everyone around her, as the smell of coffee woke her up on this gray autumn afternoon at the coffee shop.