The Prison Mocha

by juli boggs

Seattle is home to all sorts of mochas. There are the brain-bashingly great ones at Moka’s Mochas, which I have mentioned before, and the dainty-decaf ones with the proficient milk-art available at Vivace, like I sit sipping now. There is also a mocha of another kind which reigns supreme though it is rarely spoken of: the ubiquitous “prison mocha.” Available anywhere drip coffee and Swiss Miss cocoa mix collide, the prison mocha is exceedingly common and is familiar to virtually anyone who has sought to freeload from an employee staff lounge.

I had always smirked at the naivety of this drink’s name when it was mentioned, gently reminding its champions that, while prison is surely a nice place with all the creature comforts like gyms and urinals, inmates probably don’t sit around sipping mochas. I had taken it upon myself to explain this once more while working in a boat yard last weekend when a man in the vicinity corrected me. “Actually, I worked in a prison for a while. They do make those, and that’s just what they called them.”

Needless to say, the confirmation of this fact has reverted my entire perception of prison back to that which I held when I was about 10 years old. “Just think about it!” I would implore my mother. “Why would you stay homeless and hungry on the street when you could go to prison? There’s food, there’s a bed,” I would argue. To me, prison was akin to a cement boarding house- a place that provided housing and food to those who would otherwise have gone without, like a social service with a bad rap. As I grew older, I learned about things like Martha Stewart and white-collar prisons. Places with flowering gardens, libraries, and arts n crafts programs. I figured that if I were to ever go to prison, this is where I would end up: my life of sophisticated crime punished by the luxuries of FPC Alderson, where inmates play tennis as their “work schedule” and stay in cottages with bunk beds, like a sleepover.

The existence of the prison mocha has only further convinced me that if one were to rob a bank with enough class, one could actually end up in a pretty nice place drinking low-end Swiss Miss mochas for the duration of their sentence, which is just one more reason why I choose to lead a life of crime. So far my criminal record has been admittedly unimpressive: when stores like Safeway had those candy bins with a coin box that requested 5 cents per sample, I would pretend to drop in a penny and take a hand full of caramels. Then again, my mother didn’t even pretend so I was continually shown up there. In college, my chief crime was underage drinking and skipping class to smoke pot, but authority figures deemed this more of “your choice” than an actual crime. Now in my twenties, I have been living in an apartment for 5 months and have yet to pay an electricity bill, though I’m sure they’ll just retain my security deposit when I leave, so I suppose this is really neither clever nor criminal.

While I’m hard up for bad actions, I comfort myself with the knowledge that I have plenty of bad ideas and bad habits, and have made plenty of bad calls and bad impressions, so really all the glamour of armed robbery, grand theft auto, and money laundering can’t be too far off. In the meantime, prison mocha, anyone?