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So let’s have another cup o’ coffee and another piece o’ pie!


In 1912 the hungry citizens of New York City were introduced to the world of on-the-go lunches and treats wrapped in wax paper when the first Automat opened in the city. For those of us who are barely old enough to remember them, Automats were “vending” machines in a cafeteria-like setting where fresh sandwiches, pie, soups, pieces of fruit and even chicken pot pies were on display for hungry patrons to plunk in nickles and remove their lunch.

I grew up reading about Automats (A Tree Grows in Brooklyn) but didn’t eat in one until I was older. I had a romantic notion (because all things from NYC are great, right?) that the Automat was a magical place where everyone had good manners and wore white gloves while enjoying a fine feast. I don’t remember where I was when I had my first and only Automat experience but I do remember eating THE worst egg salad sandwich ever made and apple that probably deflated when I bit into it.

automat_1902_chairsRecently, I was sitting in a pub with my husband discussing the creative process and the idea of building my own Creative Automat popped into my head. I have spent many a Sunday night sitting at my computer sifting through blog post ideas as I tried to squeeze water out of a rock. During these “dry” creative times, I believe everyone should have their own Creative Automat to fill up with wonderful ideas and concepts to access when the creative well runs dry.

I formed the idea in my head and visualized Anna’s Creative Automat – Keeping Ideas Warm 24 Hours a Day and its daily operations. I gave it a location on a bustling but pleasant street corner in “The Village” where all the creatives hang out and slapped a bright coat of paint on it. I visualized the patrons of my fine establishment and the ideas it would nurture and hatch.

As I continued to build the Automat of My Dreams, I realized I needed to build an actual physical representation of my Automat where I could draw ideas from instead of keeping them stored in notebook or the dusty confines of my brain. Actually psychically building something is completely out because the prominent carpentry genes in my family were never passed on to me and I can barely hammer a nail without hurting myself.

What I can do is build a mini-Automat by scouring the craft stores and second hand shops for a window box or something with little shelves I can paint and fill with ideas. I like of pulling out a slip of paper or button or piece of memorabilia when I’m looking for a blog or article topic or when I’m craving a decent egg salad sandwich. I might even buy a plastic egg to put in my Automat to remind me of the possibilities. Check back with me as I develop this idea and buy the materials for Anna’s 24 Hour Automat and build it. I will post pictures and write about the process.

What about you, Gentle Reader? What does your Automat look like? Does it have a smell? What type of machines would you have and what would the doors and windows on the machine look like? What sort of things would you fill it up with? Books of poetry, slips of paper, YouTube videos? What sort of people would come to your Automat? Would you keep it private or open it to the public? Drop me a line and let me know. I want to see pictures of your completed idea!!


About Anna Alexander

I get ideas. I write things. I sometimes follow through with those ideas. I also run long distances and live in the Pacific Northwest with my husband cat who lets us pay the mortgage on his house.

One response »

  1. This blog was SO visual & audible (?)…I could even hear the doors opening to the Automat. My automat is an address book stuffed with news clippings, torn pieces of magazines of all things creative, scraps of paper l scribbled names of books I want to read while driving and listening to NPR, My new automat will have to be small but I can see it coming. Thanks!


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