Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Living la Vida Starbucks

Anyone who travels--particularly on business--knows one often has time to kill; back when I worked in politics, I would check out of my hotel, have a meeting or two, but have time either before or after the meeting, before I needed to arrive at the airport. And as business travelers know, the airport is seldom a pleasant place to wait. Sometimes there isn't time for sightseeing or a movie; so one finds a comfortable place to relax, do work, or simply reflect.

Again, back in the day, I found bookstores that helpfully provide comfortable chairs, as well as coffee shops such as Starbucks, suitable for this. Especially on weekdays, the upholstered chairs tend to be available, and the environment is not too noisy.

And, of course, I do like to visit a bookstore and browse and read (basically, I can read a good deal for free!), and to get a really good cup of coffee, albeit rather pricey.

One of the amusing things about Starbucks is listening to the patter as the barrista calls out the completed "drink order" (I want to say, "no, I don't want a 'drink'--I want a coffee."): "no-room double-chai half-soy, half-decaf iced venti Cappuchino" and suchlike. Every once in a while, when there isn't a line of impatient commuters behind me, I enjoy the bemused reaction when I follow the lead of the "menu board" and use Italian: "Vorrei venti Americano, negro, per favore!"; "si, grazie!" "prego!"

Well, as you must have guessed by now, that is where I am at present, enjoying the last of an iced coffee--oh, sorry: "iced venti no-room Americano!" As you may have heard, we've had heavy rain in D.C. the past few days, with cloudbursts coming suddenly; so walking about sightseeing holds little attraction.

Some may accuse me of "going over to the Dark Side," by frequenting Starbucks; "you should go to a local, independent place!" Well, two problems; first, one never knows what one will get at those local places, and I've found that while the coffee is usually as good, sometimes it's even higher-priced! Second, there is the problem of finding those places. As it is, visiting northern Virginia involves quite enough driving when I know where I'm going; I don't relish more. It's the same thing that propelled McDonalds to world-supremacy: travelers who want to find a familiar place, with consistent quality, wherever they go.

When you get a Starbucks and a bookstore together, all you really need is a dormitory somewhere in the back, and one could just move in!


Anonymous said...

It's always nice to find another person who loves a good bookstore. There can't be too many of us, I say.

Also nice to see someone else that practices the subtle art of using bookstores as libraries. All too often, I see folks rush into our local Borders or Barnes & Noble, hurriedly sort through the books available, make their purchase, and rush off once again.

Why let a bookstore go to waste like that? Buying books is only part of their purpose. Browsing is at least as important.

Ellen said...

I love to browse the book stores, but I skip the Starbucks. The coffee is way too strong for me and the price! I guess I am just too cheap to spend $4 for a cup of coffee when I can buy a half pound of good coffee for 4 bucks!

As far as the book stores, my favorite part is the bargain rack area. I have found some interesting reading there and some books that I might never have looked at before. Unfortunately, I never seem to have as much time as I would like to browse as I am usually in the middle of running other errands when I go into the vicinity of B & N or Borders!

I hope your vacation continues to be good.

Anonymous said...

Hi Father,

I've been enjoying reading your daily adventures in our neck of the woods.

I can't say that I'm a Starbucks fanatic since I'm not a coffee drinker but I love the smell of it. I would love to walk into one of those Starbucks and say, "I would like to order mild coffee with lots of 2% milk and regular sugar in a small recycled paper cup please." I could only image the stares that I would get. Oh the horror! Such blasphemy! :o)

Anyways, enjoy the rest of your stay here in the DC area.

Anonymous said...

Sorry Typo: "I could only imagine (not image)..."

Anonymous said...

I always try to order my coffee using less than three words, one of which is usually please. It always astounds me that I am peppered with extra questions and then hear my order translated into some big long overly froo-froo description.

And listening to some of the coffee orders from people...they are all so self-important!

Thanks for your blog and have a safe trip back home.

Rich Leonardi said...

One way for local coffee houses to compete against Starbucks is to offer free wireless. That's what a place on Hyde Park Square does, and it seems to help fill the place. It's cheap for a business to offer and fairly easy to set up. Starbucks, as you may know, uses the fee-for-service HotSpot system.

glorybe said...

I love Starbucks and bookstores, but especially when they are together. :)

I have been known to almost run to sit in the plush, comfy chair (before someone else gets it first, ha,ha)

I haven't made it to one in a long time, because of having two babies back to back, but I have many good memories of meeting friends there and talking for hours until they tell us we have to go because they are closing.

I hope to go back someday soon, and catch up on some good reading and conversation.

Anonymous said...

I went to a Starbucks in a Barnes and Noble and ordered a regular coffee. It came in a cup with a quote from a homosexual activist/author imploring "gays" to come out because "life is too damn short".

It was #43 in a series called "The way I see it". I asked for a plain cup and was told they all have a quote on it by "someone famous or smart" to generate "coffeehouse conversation and promote the free exchange of ideas". I then asked for a cup that might have a biblical quote or something from a Christian intellectual. I was told with a slight chuckle that they probably did not have any and the cups are packaged randomly anyways.

I thanked the hip counterperson who suggested to me "that a little controversy makes the coffee taste better. I told him that promoting the homosexual agenda in a Starbucks is probably not really controversial and if controversy really did make the coffee taste better they should include a quote from the Bible about the destruction of Sodom.

According to the Seattle paper Starbucks sponsors homosexual pride events. Starbuck vans are part of the homosexual parade and starbuck employees hand out coffee samples.

Starbucks also matches employee contributions to Planned Parenthood.

Anonymous said...

That's precisely why I drink Dunkin.

Fr Martin Fox said...


I'm sorry to hear that about Starbucks; I wondered about its political profile, but hadn't heard anything particular.

glorybe said...

Judi Brown recommended a really good article to read about Starbucks.


I won't be buying anything from Starbucks anymore.