Has Al Qaeda infiltrated the Tea Lounge?
That’s what Park Slope’s caffeinated set was wondering after a law enforcement agent strolled into the neighborhood’s beloved hangout last month and told a barista to be on the lookout for villains plotting their next attack by way of the cafe’s free wireless Internet access.
“A policeman came in and told her that people who sit around using Wi-Fi could be learning about terrorism,” said Greg Wolf, the owner of the cafe, which is on Union Street between Sixth and Seventh avenues.
The barista in question no longer works at the Tea Lounge and couldn’t be reached for comment, but a patron who witnessed the interaction — and ultimately chimed in — gave us the blow-by-blow:
“The cop gave her a flier about what to look for in a terrorist,” recalled the patron. “She said, ‘I’m Israeli. I know what to look for.’”
“Then the cop told her to contact him if she sees anyone looking at suspicious Web sites.”
The observer felt compelled to intervene.
“I said, ‘Are you asking her to monitor what people are looking at?’ And he responded, ‘If someone came in with a gun, would you want her to call the police?’ I said, ‘That’s a little ridiculous.’”
It’s unclear what agency the gumshoe works for. The commanding officer of Park Slope’s 78th Precinct, Capt. John Scolaro, called it an “incredible story,” and insisted that the officer did not work for him.
Nonetheless, coffee hounds at Wolf’s other Tea Lounge, on Seventh Avenue and 10th Street, were similarly taken aback by the absurdity of the story, first reported on the Web site, Only the Blog Knows Brooklyn.
“So now I’m supposed to wonder if that guy on the laptop next to me is writing the great American novel or writing his suicide note before he blows himself up on the Brooklyn Bridge?” asked a regular customer.
“That sounds ridiculous to me,” added Leila Mohr, 23, a regular Tea Lounge patron. “It seems so dramatic and unreal. How would they know who was a terrorist? It seems like they’re trying to induce fear and paranoia.”
Ben Jones and Libba Bray, who referred to the Lounge as their “cubicle,” had more pressing fears than terrorists sipping yerba mate while browsing Al Qaeda Web sites on the neighboring couch.
“Terrorists are the least of our worries — we have people playing the harmonica here and disturbing our workplace,” said Jones, referring to management’s recent removal of a man who refused to stop playing his pocket-sized instrument in the cafe.