Starbucks: a daunting experience

I must say that a first visit to an upscale coffee shop can be one of the most daunting experiences someone may go through. Waiting on line behind hipsters, trendy folks, well dressed businessmen and the occasional hippie who will only buy fair trade coffee can intimidate many people. Then while you are trying to figure out what a Latte is and how to pronounce it your turn comes up. You stare at the large menu void of explanation and try to recall what the last person ordered so you can order something cool instead of just plain coffee. Hmm… you think to yourself as you hear someone say in the speediest voice you have ever heard besides maybe that guy from the old micro-machines or hotwheels commercials, I’ll have a venti white chocolate mocha, with half skim, half soy, low fat whipped cream and an extra shot of espresso. Now what on earth is that you wonder, it sounds cool, you wonder how many times you will have to embarrass yourself in order to be hip and trendy enough to know what the hell venti means? Or will you be reduced to a life of boredom and plain old coffee?

Whatever happened to the 50 cent cup of coffee from the corner deli that was piping hot and came in one of those blue cardboard cups with the picture of steam on the side. Talk about luxury, people are willing to shell out 4 bucks for a cup of espresso and milk because that little green logo is status. Its kind of like driving a hummer – you aren’t going to drive up 30% grades but you sure feel cool in a land of boring SUV’s and Toyota Camary’s. I must admit I am hypocritical as I write this rant I am sitting in an upscale coffee shop that charges mucho cash for a cup of coffee, but you see I gain the satisfaction of free internet and the occasional hottie that comes in that I get to check out. I am not paying merely for my tea – actually a pot of Moroccan Mint Tea that costs $1.56 and makes 3 cups.

I remember a time when I wanted to be cool, now I know I am cool, but a while ago in my yeshiva days I needed the coolness of holding my little cup with the green logo. It all began in 1999 in Rochester NY, I was in yeshiva and Saturday nights usually consisted of bowling, ice skating, hockey when the lake was frozen, rollerblading or biking when the whether was good and sledding when the snow was plenty. After any of these activities we would always go get ice cream at friendlys  the only kosher hangout in town. We always looked forward to getting a glimpse or the local girls or maybe even the girls from the local girls high school, but most of all it was good ice cream and we could feel cool by being able to hang out in a normal eatery.

This Saturday night was different we wanted to feel extra cool. A few friends and I decided it was time for Starbucks. We had no idea how to go about this breaking of our virginity so to speak but we casually walked into the crowded store and pretended we were regulars. I knew that everyone in the store gave us the “you have no idea what your doing” look, but we were determined to be cool. And so we looked at the daunting menu having no idea what anything was and gasping like any normal yeshiva bochur would at the exorbitant prices. We were determined not to spend over $2 on a damned drink I can recall us thinking in unison, but we were also determined not to be nerds and settle for coffee. I didn’t buy anything but my friend Yanky from da cuse – ordered an Espresso. It was cheap it sounded cool and wasn’t too complicated. He received his drink and looked into the cup, to our dismay or their mistake there was barely anything in the cup. It was merely a “shot”, we asked the green apron wearing barista if they had gotten the order right? To which she said she could remake it if we wanted. We had been duped by the cool people who didn’t want any outsiders in their establishment I felt like I was in a country club that didn’t allow Jews. I could imagine the sneering faces as we all walked out clutching the lone espresso and wondering what to do with it. It was too little for all of us to enjoy, we hadn’t even tried it yet. Yanky took the first swig, uch he screeched as a spray of brown spittle shot out from his mouth and splattered onto the pavement, that taste like burnt water man he screamed. I was happy that I hadn’t wasted the nearly two dollars on 2 oz’s of burnt water, I tried it next as we passed the cup around. I felt like we were a bunch of 12 year olds smoking our first cigarette passing around and nearly throwing up. I smelled it, smelled pretty good, then as if a replay occurred a spray of saliva and burnt water coffee espresso whatever one would call it was ejected from my mouth. WTF was all we could muster as we swore off Starbucks and all other forms of hip trendy establishments forever. It wasn’t until 4 or 5 years later that I would actually muster up the guts to reenter this same kind of store and once again take the plunge into being cool.