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by Mark Simple

About 20 years ago, I travelled to Washington DC with my family. After doing the usual touristy things (target practice at the FBI, receiving free $20 bills at the Bureau of Printing and Engraving), we stopped at a large cafeteria that served food Automat-style. Automats were supposed to be the cafeterias of the future; a large wall separates the kitchen from the dining area, and functions as a large vending machine. You select your foodstuffs from glass doors, put your money in the appropriate slot, open the door, and withdraw your dinner. Heavenly. Scott Berk, our illustrious staff chemist, indicated to me that he was heading down to DC for a short while. After a making a few calls, I found the following message on my answering machine:
"I'm calling from Washington DC regarding the information you requested for the food automatic facility. I've checked with the Smithsonian and various other tour organizations within Washington, and no, that particular place is not here at this time; we certainly hope you still will come and enjoy Washington; we do have cafeterias in place of the food automatic. Thank you for calling our office of Tourism and Promotion."
I have passed the word along to Scott -- be rest assured, they do have cafeterias in Washington DC. Now I'm wondering if there are ANY Automats left - I'm sure there's some rotty Automat Appreciation Society somewhere.

Update 96nov07

Missive reader Gary Wicker has passed on this interesting update to my Automat pinings:
Just thought I'd let you know that you can still experience the wonder of visiting an automat, but you'll have to trek all the way to Amsterdam. There, little restaurants called FEBO adorn many of the picturesque and tourist-laden strassen. A FEBO looks like the wall of PO boxes at the post office, except that the doors are transparent, and there are coin slots instead of keyholes. FEBO employees are hidden behind the wall of tiny clear cubicles, busily preparing tasty FEBOtreats. Although there are a large number of tiny compartments at a FEBO, it's hard to tell if there is any difference in their contents. Each one simply contains something small, breaded, deep-fat-fried, and unidentifiable. The up-side is that it doesn't cost much to eat at a FEBO; for a couple of guilders, you can slide open the door to reveal a scrumptious "broodje mit kass" (whatever that means). They're also open 24 hours a day, if I remember correctly.

P.S. - I've visited Amsterdam twice, but have yet to work up the nerve to actually eat FEBO cuisine.

I'm inclined to use my Sprint Bonus Flight (see Missive #985195) just to experience FEBO in Amsterdam. Oh, and the pot. And the hookers ("strassen"). And whatever else they've got lying around.

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