GOODNESS ME , is that the time already? It is the 10th anniversary of the internet cafe. Ten years have passed since Eva Pascoe, an enterprising young Polish woman, capitalised on a popular new hobby by opening Cyberia, the world’s first computer-and-coffee shop, in Whitfield Street, central London. There are now more than 20,000 internet cafes across the world.
But can it really be a decade? Ten years since we first queued patiently behind a gaggle of German students writing interminable emails with the aid of one bilingual dictionary?
Ten years since we first tried secretly surfing porn on computers which were not our own, only to discover that Big Farm Girls Have Fun was blocked in such outlets?
Ten years since we first angrily accessed our office websites while nine teenagers crowded round a car-chase game on the next machine, jabbing us with their elbows during a particularly exciting roadside pile-up?
Ten years since we first ran down the stairs of Easyeverything to shout at the manager when our cards had run out prematurely, only to find it was one of those Kafkaesque places where everybody who is actually involved in the operation is located on invisible premises elsewhere?
Ten years since our holidays were ruined by the discovery that, even if we accidentally ‘forgot’ to take our laptops abroad, our bosses would be on the hotel phone saying: ‘There seems to be a vodka bar on Murderers Road, Minsk, offering free use of a ZX Spectrum where you can be deposited in a matter of hours by no more than four buses to get started on that report’? Tempus fugit, as they say in Minsk. No doubt Eva Pascoe is a multi-millionaire these days. Even as we speak, she is probably snorting cocaine off the back of a high-class tart on board a 15-bedroom yacht.
Or possibly just enjoying a family-size box of Terry’s All Gold in front of the full back catalogue of Friends on DVD; whatever rings Eva’s bell.Either way, the rewards are high for such a simple wheeze. It’s one of those ideas, like the cardboard milk carton, which has the rest of us wandering round in a furious mist, baffled as to why we didn’t think of it ourselves.That’s it? Somebody else invented the internet and all she did was put it in a cafe? Damnit, that’s my money!
Fortunately, in order to prevent such a simple thought making anybody else a billionaire in the future, I have patented all the following cafe ideas for the next 10 years. Every popular trend that anybody else has invented will be mine, in cafe form.In September 2014, perhaps some hapless columnist will be speculating on what I might be doing with my limitless funds.
What could be more pleasant and un-sinister than 60 people sitting alone at tables sipping espresso and listening to their iPods?
BIG BROTHER CAFE
Enjoy a cappuccino in the ideal misanthrope’s environment: if you don’t like the look of somebody across the room, you can simply vote them out of the cafe and have them ejected on to the street.
An ideal location for anybody looking to lose a few pounds, this chain invites you to order a modish slimming meal but, just as it arrives at your table, that particular diet goes out of fashion and the waiter takes it away again. This happens four or five times until you are simply too bored to eat.
BODY ART CAFE
Indulge in a skinny latte while a man tattoos barbed wire round your arm and an incomprehensible Chinese slogan just above your arse. A milk moustache, low-strung trousers and a grimy G-string complete the look.
FAME IDOL CAFE
It’s a karaoke bar, but instead of your friends, you sing to a group of unpleasant strangers who explain you are rubbish and too fat to be successful. The ‘lunchtime special’ comes with a recording contract which is cancelled after one single which enters the charts at number 70.
HARRY POTTER CAFE
Watch quidditch on the giant plasma screens as you sip pumpkin juice and select your favourite spells supplement from a range of Sunday papers on the counter. (Fifty quid says somebody actually does launch this by the end of the year.)
Bored of traditional sports bars and the same old football matches on a TV loop? Here, you may savour a mochaccino as you watch a series of soccer-themed Nike and Adidas commercials. Nothing but ads. As much Beckham as your heart desires and this time he doesn’t miss any penalties.
It opens with a great fanfare, but nothing works properly and within two months the general public are not allowed in.
5 September 2004
Author: Victoria Coren