Does Village 38, the “cafeteria” on the ground floor of our building, actually exist? One copywriter investigates…

For weeks, I couldn’t put my finger on it—then it hit me: Village 38, the deli/grocery/salad bar/cafeteria/pizzeria that has basically everything (yes, everything, including piquant corn nuts, rip-off General Tso’s chicken, and the videotape of your first kissy) might not—wait for it—actually exist.

I won’t fault you for thinking to yourself: Joe, how is it possible that this place you regularly frequent for various snacks, meals, toilet paper, seeing your dead grandma again one last time, etc. – how does a place like that just not exist?

 Here’s how:

  • Every time I leave there I feel like I’ve just woken up from a very pleasant dream. Yes, that’s right. I walk into Village 38 looking for something—I don’t know what (a tuna sandwich? Celery? That moment you meet someone and just know?)—and I walk outside unable to remember if I’ve actually gone in in the first place. And yet a contented smile sidles its way across my face and I feel a desperate urge to brush my teeth.
  • The check-out schema is specifically designed not to make money. You know which stores have cash registers hidden away in the back of a restaurant/cafeteria, with no receipt-monitoring system to make sure you’ve actually paid for your goods and two employees doing one employee’s job so mediocrely that you wonder if maybe both employees are wearing full body human costumes? Stores with no desire or motivation to really make money. And you know what they call stores that actively try not to make money? Well they don’t call them stores, that’s for sure. And if a store isn’t a store, then does it exist? *Mic drop*
  • Tell me you’ve heard about string theory. Remember in 6th grade when that weird kid from Milwaukee or something posed to you that if a tree falls in a forest, it doesn’t make a sound? And how it like, totally blew your mind and paved the way for a truly whacked out Torah portion next year at your Bar Mitzvah? (Ok, maybe that was just me.) Anyway, it’s kind of like how no one ever calls Village 38 by its name or says, “I’m going to Village 38” or “I’ve just been to Village 38.” If you took an informal poll of our office, I’d bet that most people didn’t even know it had a name. And if no one knows your name, then who are you? Are you even there?
  • In trying to be everything, it is nothing. The other morning I went into Village 38 and picked up a banana and a chai latte and my 5-year tetanus shot. I’m not kidding. The place transcends simple all-in-one restaurant categorizations. Neon signs in the front window are so innocuous as to not even be there: “Hot Bagel” “Sushi” “Pizza” “Your Dog’s Mom.” There are pictures of generic looking sandwiches and an ethnically ambiguous trio and THREE different types of Coca-Cola bottles and a crazed decoration that can only be described as Picasso-esque. Inside is an attempt at an all-inclusive utopia—there are Mexicans cooking pizza and Chinese running a cash register and Jamaicans making steak quesadillas and Mexican women running the salad bar and a vast socio-economic cross section of America eating there and then more Mexican dudes working the cash register in back. It is at once too good to be true and, whoa, wait—it’s actually too good to be true. It is trying so hard to be a village that sells everything to every different type of people that the only reality must be that it is pure artifice, a mini Truman show, if Truman was a roughly 1200 sq/foot deli/grocery/salad bar/cafeteria/everything place where when you walk in you suddenly remember all your past lives. It’s all starting to make sense.

 In conclusion, I don’t know about you, but now more than ever I’m convinced that Village 38 might not even actually exist.

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