13 February 2006


I went to a Starbucks.

I know, for many this is like a man in the desert claiming to have seen some sand. It is an everyday experience for a significant portion of humanity. You can't help but go to a Starbucks, even without meaning to do so. Finding a Starbucks is like stepping in gum. Walk down a sidewalk and you will probably step in one. One trips over them at grocery stores and book stores (which make the entire store stink, in my opinion). At this point you can probably see where I am going with this, so if you are one of the great many of people who have hitched your caffeine wagon on a Starbucks or have named your children Venti, Grande, and Tall, bail out now or you might become enraged and spill your Vanilla Bean Frappuccino® Blended Crème on your keyboard). That being said, going to a Starbucks is a big deal for me. I had never been to one before and would have been happy and a little proud to have gone to my grave without ever having set foot into one. I was invited to an informal meeting at one and felt obliged to attend.

I will not bother to waste your time by skewering the easily skewered aspects of Starbucks that have already been skewered by hands much more capable of wielding a skewer. Surely, one of the finest moments in Simpsons' family history is the families' visit to a mall only to discover that every other store is a Starbucks and all of the others are closing to become Starbucks.

I shall instead waste your time with two impressions I had after I purchased a small hot chocolate (I think they called it a Tall Hot Chocolate).

First, their hot chocolate is essentially brown water with a dab of whipped cream on the top. Granted, this is not their specialty, but if you are going to sell an 12 oz drink for three dollars and change, at least try to make it worth something besides the satisfying status of holding a authentic Starbucks cup in your hand. As I sat sipping my Tall Hot Chocolate, I wondered, how does this place stay in business? Do people think that it must taste good because they spent three dollars on it and they would be really stupid to have spent three dollars on something so mediocre?

Second, I was struck that Starbucks is a kind of upper middle class Waffle House. Both serve coffee, both of them are considered "hip" for their various clientele, both of them employ a specific type of person as servers, both employ a nomenclature intimidating to the uninitiated, and both serve below average or average wares. Is this an unfair comparison?

I am done. This really sounds like your prototypical blogger rant and for that I apologize.

In other news, I was discussing the fashions of the Roaring Twenties with my American Literature class (we are about to do Great Gatsby) and I said: "favored fashions not flattering to the feminine form." One of my students stopped me and asked if I meant to do that. "Do what?" I responded. "The alliteration in that sentence...that's impressive if you meant to do that." I had to confess that I didn't intend to do so, but I was impressed with her application of the literary term. Sometimes they learn something.


Update: I feel like a stole the line or something like: "Walk down a sidewalk and you will probably step in one. " I don't know from where I might have stolen it. It just sounds familiar. Also, my wife enjoys the occasional Starbucks. My review of my Starbucks experience was probably biased by the fact that I don't like coffee.


4BoyDad said...

I'm with you on coffee. There is no greater disconnect in the universe between promise and reality, than that between the way coffee smells and the way it tastes.

But a Starbucks Mocha Frappucino is just fine. I don't get the hot chocolate there any more (I think I didn't like it, either). I do like to hang out at Starbucks, though. The music is usually good, and the couches are usually comfortable.

Here's the problem with coffee houses, and I think you'll share this with me. None of them will ever compare to Cafe Intermezzo at Perimeter, early on a rainy Saturday morning, drinking a good hot chocolate (essentially warm, chocolate-flavored butter with whipped cream), checking out the dessert girl, waiting for Sword of the Phoenix to open up.

Or hot tea and shortbread cookies at the Oxford Books on Peachtree.

Or the cream cheese brownies at The Dessert Place in Virginia-Highlands.

Splitcat Chintzibobs said...

Ah, good memories. Though I seem to remember that at Cafe Intermezzo I spent more time worrying about the dessert guy checking me out than checking out the dessert girl. I try not to think about Oxford Books as it makes me very, very sad. Sword of the Phoenix makes me wistful for days when I actually had twelve hours in row to play a game.