No I don’t want a coffee machine in my office. I want to go to Pret to get away from everyone

It’s a free country

There is much to like about your modern office. You like that it is in Central London; you like at least several of the people who work there. Perhaps it has a gym, or a funkipolitan “break-out area” with bean bags, or a table.

It probably also has a coffee machine. This coffee machine was likely billed as the “best reason to work here”, by the unoriginal person who gave you a tour when you first started. The first morning, when you walked into the office carrying a Pret cup, someone quipped that we “literally have a coffee machine”. Someone makes this quip every day. And yesterday, when your colleagues had half-hearted conversations about habits to forsake for Lent (they’re not ‘vices’, they’re habits) – someone professed they’re giving up coffee because they are spending between £25 and £50 a week on it, and “that’s such a waste of money”. You were quiet.

Because sure, it is. But it’s money you like wasting. You don’t want a coffee machine in your office. You like going to Pret. You like the frothy milk. You like being made aware that the city is full of millions of people, before you enter your office and your world shrinks.

You like the ritual: you like watching the Pret staff choreograph your order, hearing the instruction pass from server to barista, and the coffee pass from barista to you, while the server is also serving the customer after you, and the barista is making three other customer’s coffees. You like that this ritual is the same in every Pret. You like that the set-up of Pret is the same in every Pret, regardless of its size.

You like that it’s sweet because you don’t drink real coffee for the taste, you drink high street coffee for its particular taste. You like carrying the cup: the prop’s weight pleases you, and it signposts that you are a Busy Person Who Is Going Somewhere. You like the Pret brand and you like that you see the same people in there every morning. You like it when the staff smile at you.

Making coffee in a coffee machine is just coffee. And you don’t like that.