This morning, a friend of mine and I found ourselves in the Starbucks on 95th street and Broadway. No, scratch that – let me try this again. This morning, a friend of mine and I went to Starbucks to have some coffee. With that first sentence one might almost think that we were there not of our own volition and that somehow we were forced to go in against our will.
I’ll admit it: I like Starbucks. My friend does as well, but just in case it turns out that this is indeed a high crime against society, I won’t name any names – I’ve probably dropped on a lot of people’s lists after my Martha article. I don’t think some thoughts on a brand name coffee are going to do me much worse – but I’d like to look out for the innocents here, in this case being my friend.
It didn’t start out this way. I didn’t think it would end up this way, either. I fully realize that this isn’t quite up there with Watergate, or Whitewatergate for that matter – though some of the Web sites out there would have you think otherwise. It just seems that there are some things that need to be clarified a bit before we can move on.
I didn’t really drink a lot of coffee when I was younger. This wasn’t exactly expected of me in my grade school years, though by the time I was a teenager I might have had some friends thinking I was weird. Granted, most of them were thinking this for reasons unrelated to coffee (apparently I used to do a Gilbert Gottfried impersonation – I only have a vague recollection of this thanks to a childhood friend who cheerfully reminded me of this a few months ago) but I think that at least a few eyebrows would raise up in diners when I’d be the only non-coffee drinker.
The Beginning of my Coffee Drinking
When I was spending a lot of time in diners with friends in college and smoking a lot, I drank coffee because it is impossible to find a good cup of tea in a diner. By this time I was quite fond of tea, as any of my friends and even casual acquaintance from this time period will attest. The problem was that I liked to sit for hours and talk and have maybe a bagel with cream cheese. Once the bagel with cream cheese was gone, I felt the need to order something so I wouldn’t just be sitting there smoking and taking up space in the diner without supporting them at all. A cup of coffee was perfect because I could get refills if I wanted, and it was much better than the alternative – nothing.
Through all of this, I was on one side of the Starbucks fence, as it were – the side of the fence where people are holding large angry signs and singing protest songs. Don’t get me wrong – I wouldn’t have been one of the people holding a sign or singing. I probably would have been the guy on the sidelines serving “alternative” beverages that one often finds on protest Web sites – most likely steeping a few pots of good tea.
The event which really started to change things around took place when I was in Barnes and Noble with my best friend, and we decided to go for something to drink. We went to the café. It wasn’t until I was about halfway through the drink and thinking about how enjoyable it was that I looked down and realized that I was holding a Starbucks cup. I then looked up and noticed the sign, for the first time, stating that Barnes & Noble “proudly” served Starbucks coffee. One would think that I would have noticed such a gargantuan sign. I had not noticed, but it was too late – I had already tasted the coffee, and I already had the thought process of realizing that I liked it without the taint of the knowledge that it was a “forbidden” beverage.
The next step in the process came about a year or so later. By this point I had no problem getting coffee from the café at the Barnes & Noble – perhaps I had disassociated the two. I wasn’t going into any actual Starbucks, in any case. My then girlfriend’s sister’s boyfriend liked to occasionally take us out to Starbucks. Sometimes we would even meet there. After awhile, I started taking other people there, and sometimes even had coffee there by myself. I was at Rutgers University in New Brunswick at the time, so it was an easy stroll from where I had classes to the local Starbucks.
This habit continued well past the end of that relationship through a couple more – indeed, for it is said that relationships can come and go, while one’s desire for caffeinated beverages remains. I continued to go to that Starbucks with friends, meeting people there, studying there, even writing while there. Meanwhile, of course, I would make jokes about it and refer to it with sarcastic names which cannot be repeated here in the name of good taste. This surely is the mark of a true addict – the one who jokes about it while at the same time craving it.
Living in New York has not, as you might imagine, made things much easier. I once joked to someone as we passed by a Starbucks, “Now there’s something you don’t see every day – a Starbucks in Manhattan!” Standing inside my bank near 94th street and Broadway, one can see a Starbucks – and there is one just a couple of doors down from the bank. This is not an exception – there are many street corners where one can stand and see a couple within spitting distance of one another. It’s almost as if they are competing with one another. I was involved in a discussion this evening about which of the Starbucks near us on Broadway was better. Virtues such as space, crowd size, and the like were discussed. I think that the me from several years ago would have slapped present day me if time travel were possible. (It makes me wonder if I would have recognized myself!)
There are some who say without reservation that Starbucks just makes a bad cup of coffee. If this is the case, then the coffee police can come and arrest me, because I happen to like it and think it’s good. I am well aware that there are many small “Mom and Pop” type coffee houses which also serve excellent coffee – generally speaking, I patronize these establishments as well. Nevertheless, I will say with no hesitation – I like Starbucks.