Friday, April 15, 2011

Pancakes at Starbucks

I hit the drive-through today and hear a greeting from one of my all-time favorite baristas.

I ask "What's cooking?" and we chat. She says that nothing is cooking - and asks what I was hoping for.

I replied that I was hoping for maybe some pancakes - because who doesn't love pancakes. With sausage and bacon.

And then conversation takes a weird turn.

My barista tells me - over the drive-through speaker - that "Someone tried to order pancakes at the drive-through one time."

Even though I know they can't really see me on the drive-through camera, I blink. I just don't know that I'd ever expect pancakes at Starbucks.

I order a trenta raspberry iced tea (so delicious) and pull around for the rest of the story.

Apparently, the gentleman in question was foreign - and didn't know the word for what he wanted - and somehow thought "pancakes" was it.

No word on what he actually wanted. I actually can't think of anything on the Starbucks menu that is close to "pancakes?"

Anyway. I'm just picturing the reactions of baristas when someone tries to order a stack of pancakes at the drive-through.

I shouldn't say that. The next thing you know - Howard will have freeze-dried waffles in the stores too.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

What does the stench of entitled yuppie smell like?

Ah, the stench of entitled yuppie. I suppose someone has to drive those kids to soccer practice and work in the insurance offices - but the stench of that new Lexus SUV clings to Mr. Boat Shoe like glue.

So does his shitty attitude.

The store has not seen a customer for 45 minutes. After a busy afternoon (it is hot in Florida, and cool inside the Starbucks), the baristas are mopping, cleaning and restocking. I'm typing and eating my chicken vindaloo takeout from Whole Foods (I'll pay the Mexican Heartburn bill later).

One barista is going back and forth with tubs of ice. The other is mopping.

Mr. Boat Shoe walks in and stands at the register and starts to tap his fingers.

When no one leaps to serve him, there's an audible sigh, a pout then glares at the mopping barista who's taken the time to put the mop back in the bucket and come back behind the counter.

There's another sigh when the barista take the time to wash their hands before dispensing two drip coffees.

I suppose if I had had the pleasure of serving Mr. Boat Shoe, I'd have left room for bleach.

I'm particularly reminded of a Foursquare tip at one of my regular Starbucks. It reads simply "Baristas are human beings too." 


Please be nice to your baristas. If you can't tip - not everyone can - then say "please" and "thank you" and don't act like getting your drink within two minutes is the end of the world. It isn't. Karma will ALWAYS get you in the end. 
The stench of entitled yuppie. Marching Onward toward $5 coffee, one latte at a time.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Fake Margaret Hamilton stole my table!

I forgot to post my Fake Margaret Hamilton adventure from last week!!! Pondering the imponderable. Because it rained this afternoon - and the temperature dipped a little, the temperature inside the Starbucks feels like a penguin habitat.

I've got multiple layers, plus stored fat and I'm shivering.

But that isn't why we're here.

Fake Margaret Hamilton stole my table. As it turns out, she's as nutty as a fruitcake.

And to top it all off, she can't drive to save her life. After all the in-store excitement, she took out a hedge and  ran right over a storm-drain and a six-inch curb to exit the parking lot in the middle of a six-lane intersection on a red light. God bless tourists.

Let's back up a bit.

I enter the store and Faux Peggy has a laptop, two bags and a plastic shopping bag scattered across three chairs at the table I usually sit at. I'm fine, I'm fine. I'm totally not fine. But it isn't like I can make her leave. I deal.

I do ever so astutely notice that she doesn't have a cup of coffee with here - but she's sucking out of a big clear thermos of water. So much for "I'M MELTING!" She must have conquered that particular fear.

Anyway. I take a seat at the next table over and am unintentionally witness to her 45-minute conversation with CitiBank, during which I come to know more about her finances than I know my own.

Transcribing this whole thing would take an army of winged monkeys and a vast repository of typewriters, but here are the high points.

1. She has three Citibank cards - two Visa and one Mastercard.
2. She wants to a credit limit increase on the Mastercard AND a special interest rate on that card.
3. She wants to transfer all the Visa balances onto the Mastercard, with the new higher credit limit and new super-low interest rate.
4. For some reason (I can't imagine why?), the CitiBank rep on the phone seems to have some reservations about granting these requests.
5. After the request for a new interest rate on the Mastercard was denied, we go through a long conversation about balance transfers - and why she can't get a special rate on balance transfers from one Visa to the other.
6. After that, there's another conversation about how long the offers they have discussed are good for. This leads to a lot of scribbling.
7. Now, we start talking about how "I don't think I want to do this right now, I want to pay that card down before I transfer balances."
8. "But thank you for your suggestions though."

At least Faux Peggy is polite in having wasted 45 minutes of some poor phone monkey's time. I can't imagine what that will look like on their report at the end of the day.

After this epic conversation is over, she gathers up all her bags, shoves the laptop into a cloth diaperbag looking thing and heads out the door.

Just as I think about moving my stuff over to the table I'm used to working at, she's back.

Apparently it was just a cigarette break.

The laptop, cell phone, notes and credit card bills all come back out. And a calculator this time. Lots of number-crunching and paper flipping. I work at Starbucks all the time - I'm just not sure I'd bring credit card statements out here - seems like they'd be too easy to lose.

Fake Margaret Hamilton is at it for another half-hour - never with a drink or pastry mind you - just drinking water out of her non-Starbucks thermos. Then, she packs up again. This time she straightens up the furniture and goes outside to her car.

Then, the fun REALLY starts.

The parking lot here is odd. There are eight spaces along a major road, but you get into that lot about 50 yards back. You can't actually exit the parking lot and get back on the main road - you have exit at the corner of the parking and turn onto the cross street and then either hit an illegal U-turn or go into one of the parking lots and not do it illegally.

But that doesn't stop Faux Peggy. She's going out over the curb  - which happens to have a six-inch storm drain off to one side.

And is right in the middle of a crosswalk, with a giant WALK sign in it. Thank the heavens there were no pedestrians. The red light didn't seem to bother her either - I guess those are the benefits of driving a rented Chevy Malibu. Quite a step down from that broom though - or that Kansas bicycle.

I look out and see her and go "THAT'S NOT A ROAD LADY!" and hear the baristas behind me groan. Despite the plate glass, you could almost hear the car's undercarriage scrape across the curb. I groan again, and the baristas cheer.

Fake Margaret Hamilton sails off into the distance, sparks flying, debts sailing and winged monkeys flapping in the non-existent breeze.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The finer things in life: A moment at Starbucks

Sometimes, really lovely moments happen, you just have to be in the right time, place and mood to see them. And you have to be aware of what's happening. Catching the tiny, delicate, unspoken and beautiful things that spark up, burn brightly and then die out all around us. These things occur unseen, unnoticed and unobserved by all but the participants.

But they're there. And they are beautiful. And glorious. Truly, if you have an hour or so one afternoon (don't do mornings - they're too busy), just sit in a coffee shop and OBSERVE.

Yes, I make fun of people, but I feel like I'm missing something sometimes, and that is the "stories." The real heart of human drama lies elsewhere, and that's what happened last week. It was brief, but beautiful - and it really affected me.

I hit the Starbucks around 3 p.m. In contrast to my usual decision to simply drink coffee and muse, I actually needed to work. I knew there was going to be trouble as soon as I entered, because every table was occupied by either people talking or a laptop-camper. A visit to the bathroom whilst it was unoccupied seemed both a wise move and a potential way to kill time while waiting for a table to clear.

My iced venti marble mocha macchiatto appeared with haste, along with a tiramisu cake pop. I love those things. By the time I collected the drink, my favorite table had actually opened up. Before anyone could lay claim, I dumped my laptop and drink off and moved over to grab some napkins.

I still don't understand why people can't walk fifteen feet to the trash can with their coffee cups, napkins and coffee stirrers. Do you leave your own homes in such a mess? Wait, don't answer that.

An hour passes. I slay an InBox full of email and knock out four blog posts. The din of an afternoon rush quiets slowly.

And then the magic happens.

An rotund man who resembles Santa Claus on the good days and a bowling ball on the bad days plunks a tiny ringleted princess down in the chair that's about four feet from my table. "Now you stay here."

She's wearing a sleeveless white and pink dress (nothing fancy, just a wee bit princessy) and white sneakers. Her dark hair is tied in two pigtails with red ribbons. She's probably about five or six and proves to be: a) a talker, b) a squirmer and c) a good eater.

He returns with a slice of pound cake, a plastic fork and a box of chocolate milk. Nothing for himself. The proud papa (I'm assuming here, he could be a grandfather - kids these days get started young) wedges his prodigious girth on the chair and proceeds to watch the girl eat, smiling at her with a beatific grin on his face the whole time. Proud, happy and entirely at peace.

For some reason, I'm captivated.

I don't know what about this hit me. Maybe because it had been a crazy day for me and these were two people who seemed to have just "figured it out." Maybe because the whole scene was making me melancholy for simpler times when all my problems could be solved with a milk and a piece of cake. Maybe because I miss sitting down with my grandparents and eating my grandmother's absolutely out-of-this-world chocolate pie.

Maybe it was just that I witnessed a special bonding moment that I'm positive no one else saw.

The little girl got up and walked - by herself - to the bathroom. Dad let her go (I was amazed, you read so much about child abductions), but she returned and he smiled at her again.

It just seemed like there was something special there - her burbling about school and dolls and how much she liked her cake and the milk and a pretty butterfly - and her dad just listening and nodding.

Dads and little girls. I hope she doesn't turn out like a Lohan in about fifteen years. Stay innocent sweetie, drink your milk, eat your cake and be true to yourself.

Sometimes, I wish things were simpler.

I wish we didn't have to grow up.

I wish all our problems could be solved with a cookie and a juice box.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Dame Edna MuuMuu is back at Starbucks

I can't make this type of stuff up. Dame Edna MuuMuu made a return appearance tonight.


I felt bad not giving people a "real" post - so here's a visit from Dame Edna MuuMuu, who wandered in off the street tonight!

She was wearing a long-sleeved leopard print shirt, skin-tight black pants that were straining at every stitch, costume jewelry on every finger and leopard print sandals. Keep in mind that Dame Edna MuuMuu tops out at about 220 pounds. The cankles were impressive.

Also, I think she might have gotten a weave put in - that, or she's wearing a wig - because that hair looks suspiciously like straw.

Anyway. I didn't even know it was her when I first noticed the conversation - it all started over something else.

I see a two hundred pound leopard go lumbering by and then hear a Cape Cod honk ask "WHAT KIND OF SUGAR FREE THINGS DO YOU HAVE?"

The barista answers that they have sugar-free vanilla syrup and sugar-free hazelnut syrup.

Dame Edna MuuMuu specifically orders a sugar-free vanilla tea. The barista asks her what size and she says just "gimme a large."

So the barista repeats very clearly - loud enough that I can hear across the room, about 12 feet away - "An iced venti sugar-free passion tea - will that be all?"

Dame Edna MuuMuu decides to ask "Now, is that sugar-free?"

*Sigh*

More fun comes later, when she gets the tea and starts talking to the man pecking away on his laptop. He keeps trying to be non-committal, but it doesn't work. He finally says "Excuse me, but I'm trying to work."

She makes a "hrrumph" sound, like she was offended, but starts digging through a CVS bag full of photos she just had developed.

Later, when someone comes in to get a coffee and recognizes the man, the new guy asks how he's doing and the guy says "I'm just trying to get some work done." Dame Edna MuuMuu decides to chime in with "Yes, it is nice and quiet in here."

I swear, I almost swallowed my tongue trying to keep from laughing. Because it is NEVER quiet around her.

It is always a great night when you get a visit from Dame Edna MuuMuu.

How many people wish this were real? The 2011 Starbucks April Fool's Joke - Starbucks Mobile Pour

Starbucks Mobile Pour Tweet from the official @Starbucks Twitter account
In the tradition the 2010 Starbucks' April Fool's prank, the "introduction" of fake "Plenta" and "Micra," sizes, the company continued to get into the spirit of things just after midnight on the West Coast with the announcement of "Starbucks Mobile Pour," for the fast-paced coffee-drinker on the go!

The text of the tweet from the official @starbucks Twitter account was "Introducing Starbucks Mobile Pour. Coffee delivered to you, on the go. Faster than you can say abra-arabica. http://sbux.co/gr07vd"

So clever - I love the "abra-arabica" touch.

http://www.starbucks.com/blog/introducing-starbucks-mobile-pour/987

I love this 2011 Starbucks April Fool's Joke. It claims to be inspired by a post on the MyStarbucksIdea blog - "Maybe free delivery??? :) There are plenty of times, especially in the middle of winter when it would rock to have Starbucks come to me!!!!!"

PAST STARBUCKS APRIL FOOL'S JOKES:

2010 was of course the year of "Plenta" and Micra" sizes - and the hilarious photos. The 128 oz. Plenta, from the Italian for "plenty," which was guaranteed to quench your thirst, and then the 2 oz. Micra, for the sip of coffee.

2009: After a little searching, I found the 2009 Starbucks April Fool joke, which was a product that promised to dispense coffee from your USB port. There's even a news article about it, which had a photo.
http://blog.seattlepi.com/thebigblog/2009/04/01/starbucks-april-fools-coffee-from-your-usb-port/.

There was also a fake Twitter account, @SBUXPlugPour, but it isn't active now.

2008: As of right now, I can't find anything that confirms a Starbucks April Fool's prank in 2008. If anyone does know that the company did something in 2008, please let me know.

2007: Information on 2007 seems sketchy, but it looks like Starbucks and then-popular Twittervision partnered to created a giant logo behind the tweets that popped up on the global map. Read a little more about it here: http://onlinemediacultist.com/2007/04/01/starbucks-takes-over-twittervision-it-must-be-april-first/.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Such an interesting monster .... We meet Sequined Susan and Watermelon Wanda at the Starbucks!

Well, that was interesting. There's always something happening at the Starbucks, it seems I'm in a window seat, so I see a white Lexus with New Hampshire plates come in off the highway, hit the curb and pull across three parking spaces.

It sits there for a minute - the blonde woman in the driver's seat obviously agitated - before doing a seventeen-point turn to get into a parking space.

X chromosomes in all shapes and sizes spill out of the car.

There's the dirty bottle-blonde matron, a young Rubenesque black girl and another whippet-thin pre-teen. A brunette who looks to be about 20 stays in the car. They hit the door in a chorus of shrieks and squeals.

The girls hit the bathroom - they go together and the adult orders a venti iced white mocha. And things go downhill from there.

Our mother unit is no June Cleaver. Instead of an apron, she's wearing a pair of blue soccer shorts with white piping and a T-shirt thin enough that I can see the leopard print bathing suit below it. Nothing wrong with that - except that perhaps you shouldn't be parading around in public wearing less fabric than it takes to make a full set of placemats.

Her attempt at small talk consists of "Is it going to keep raining here?"

To which the baristas give her a blank look - being that they have degrees in brewing coffee - not in meteorology. One says that it has been really dry - and that the showers here are usually over quickly.

Which was apparently not a good answer for June Hampshire. "Well, we were just driving back from Key West and it started raining and I was like HOLY S***." Well, if that was your reaction to rain, I'd hate to see what  you do when it snows in New Hampshire.

June Hampshire orders and then tells the barista - those girls will pick up my order. She disappears into the MEN'S RESTROOM - and the girls come out. They are wearing some INTERESTING outfits.

The full-figured African goddess has on green shorts and a pink tee, which has a leaf design appliqued over the belly-button. It is a rather strange placement which looks like something is trying to crawl out. Also, the shirt is about two sizes too small, so there's an unfortunately wide slice of stomach hanging out despite repeated efforts to yank a mis-used piece of poly-cotton down over her gut. That war was lost before those poor fibers ever stepped onto the field of battle. She had tattoos on both feet - crudely drawn interlocking hearts and a word wrapped around her ankle.

The white girl was even MORE interesting.

I know that at this point, we all have that old Bugs Bunny cartoon, "such an interesting monster" running through you head ....

She was wearing a pair of blue jean shorts that barely contained her naughty bits and a white sequined top. Sequins - just the thing for a five-hour car ride. Her sandals had a decorative sequined leather flower the size of my fist on the top. She had her limp blonde hair up in a ponytail, exposing the tattoo on the base of her neck.

Age is relative - and you can never tell with kids these days - but neither of these girls could have been more than 18 - and frankly, they looked like about 16 (or younger). And all these tattoos.

Sequined Susan and Watermelon Wanda come out of the bathroom (I sincerely hope they weren't doing lines off the toilet lid) to stand around and look for a white chocolate mocha. They nearly mow down an old man and his grandson and are jabbering and waving iPhones in pink cases around when Sequined Susan asks "Where is the drink?"

"It isn't ready yet, just a minute," one of the baristas answers.

They go back to blasting away on the phones and clogging up traffic by the registers. If you'd have seen Watermelon Wanda - you'd know that she could clog up traffic on a freeway. Plus, I kept expecting something to delivered via the appliqued portal on her shirt. It was an awful choice - but she seamed to revel in it.

I'm taking in the fashion crimes as the barista asks Sequined Susan if June Hampshire wants whipped cream on her drink.

This precipitates a cranky response - "I don't know - what did she say?"

That got a raised eyebrow from the barista. But the drink was delivered.

June Hampshire didn't even bother coming back - she exited the bathroom - the MEN'S BATHROOM mind you - and went right out to the car to smoke. She sucked down a Camel faster than I ever thought it possible. They also dumped an ungodly amount of debris from the car onto the parking lot - food wrappers, cans, newspapers, I think they might have even dumped the ashtray.

Then, they pile back in, crack back over the same curb they hit coming in and head north, reeking of nicotine, caffeine and an undefinable air of "le skank."

Thank you again to all the Kindle subscribers and Facebook fans.

If you're so inclined, you can go online to the Starbucks Drama page on Amazon.com and leave a review http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0034KYYBE 

Monday, March 28, 2011

Near death and boredom at Starbucks

Tonight, I rocked out to Adele and watched a parade of tall and venti waters walk out the door.

One of the baristas seems to have a particular affection for the new Adele CD (I do as well, but I don't want to pay full price for it). So around 11 p.m. - when the store cleared out - she cranked that puppy and sang along at the top of her lungs. It sounded like a live cat being put down a garbage disposal.

I didn't care - the store has enough customers that she can't sing for very long at a stretch - so enough of Adele comes though to soothe the savage beast.

I'm always amused - and eminently honored - when the baristas let down their guard enough to let me be a part of their banter. You feel like part of the club then.

Today (or rather tonight), the discussion veers from hair weaves to "going to da club" to men back to hair weaves to Adele to 24-hour Starbucks to weird kids to the time someone threw a cappuccino at the barista working on bar.

It is an interesting night. I've clearly been hanging out at the wrong Starbucks if I missed someone slinging a drink. WHY WAS I NOT HERE?

Through all of this, two old fat cows behind me are blathering on about the near-death experience of them had on a hairpin turn somewhere in Connecticut.

With all the powers of Vishnu behind me, I don't think that I could make near death sound as boring as the fat one in red plaid. Really. She described a near-death experience of seeing a car sideswipe her on the turnpike with the emotional detachment of eating a bowl of cereal.

I saw the car.

I saw the license plate.

It was a vanity plate.

It had my mother's name.

I thought I was going to meet her in heaven.

I made a list of all the people I needed to call.

This went on for about 40 minutes, rendered in minute - MI-NUTE - detail, complete with follow-up traumatic visit to the son's house in Las Vegas, endless moments of paralysis in her driveway and the time she had to pull off the side of the road in a hail storm.

Now, render this in a flat tone.

Flatter.

Flatter.

Even flatter.

FLATTER.

Flat like they thought the earth was in the Dark Ages.

Now run a steamroller over it.

That was how boring she was. Near death was never so dull.

Then, there was the kicker.

She said "I wondered if my son would go on the John Edward show to find me?"

Which begs the question - would he?

I wouldn't - for fear I'd be put to sleep.

Thank you again to all the Kindle subscribers and Facebook fans.

If you're so inclined, you can go online to the Starbucks Drama page on Amazon.com and leave a review http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0034KYYBE 

Monday, March 21, 2011

Chai vs. Iced Chai: What is the difference?

Sometimes, I can't tell if I'm just attuned to the stupid - or if the stupid is just more prevalent. Case in point - the chai lady.

I'm standing in a LONG line on Monday afternoon. I must have hit the store at a mini-rush when people were just getting off work or something. There are only two partners - one on register and one on bar.

I don't get antsy - I'm not in any hurry. Today is my day off - I just want to get a drink, sit and read. My only REAL concern is that the spring breakers in front of me don't grab a comfy chair.

I was also rewarded with a sighting of Fake Margaret Hamilton - whom I tweeted about a few days ago. I think she's a foreign tourist of some sort - she speaks with a heavy accent, possibly Germanic. She also wears short-shorts and drives a rented LandCruiser like a bat out of hell. Last time, she got two shots of espresso and knocked them off like literal shots. Today, she did three shots over ice in a short cup and took off out the door. I love her - and her haircut. I just want to go up to her and scream "I'm MELTING!"

However, it soon becomes apparent to me just WHY the line is backed up like the toilet at a fat camp on chocolate cake night.

There's a woman. Pink shirt, khakis, no brain cells. None. Zero. Zilch. Zero. Classic WOACA - that's "woman of a certain age" for all you beginner's out there. I coined it when I was writing "Behind the Counter," the late, much lamented chronicle of my servitude behind the service desk at Wal-mart. The archives are still online at bbcamerican.blogspot.com.

ANY-WAY.

Our girl Pinkalicious decides to play 20 Questions. One of my favorite pastimes. Drink the sarcasm. Drink it deep. DEEP. KEEP DRINKING!

Now, I don't want to impugn on those of you who don't have a deep coffee education. I'm all for asking questions - whether or not there's a line behind you. You are as entitled as the next person to the barista's time.

Courtesy might dictate that you make a decision at SOME POINT, but if you're truly indecisive, please continue. I'm a little more forgiving than some people if you've happened to make it forty-something years without venturing inside a Starbucks and cannot fathom to look on the Internet to discover the difference between a mocha, a cappuccino and an Americano. I mean, those photos of adorable cats with captions won't look at themselves will they? Because that's what most WOACAs look at on the Internet. That, and Farmville.

Anyway. I too was once confused by the mocha vs. cappuccino divide. I discovered Google. Please educate yourself. Or got to a LOCAL COFFEE SHOP, where they will be very happy to do it for you - and even more happy to see your business.

Inquiring about the types of coffees available is perfectly fine. So is a trial balloon about soy milk. Questions about Vivannos are acceptable as well, although a bit suspect, as Starbucks conducted an enormous PR & marketing campaign in support of Vivanno a few years ago. How did you miss it?

But however.

However.

However.

HOW-EV-ER.

"What's the difference between chai and iced chai?" - and we don't mean calories - is not acceptable. She never asked about calories during the entire conversation - so I KNOW BEYOND A SHRED OF DOUBT that it wasn't about calories.

At this point - I'm wondering how you manage to get out of bed, walk to the bathroom, shower, go downstairs, feed yourself, proceed to work and earn a living each day.

After all this, Pinkalicious ordered to drop coffees and a slice of marble pound cake. Most of the line was ready to mutiny and start throwing packages of Tribute blend at her - one woman even throw two pounds of coffee in a basket and walked out in a huff after muttering under her breath "This s*** isn't worth it."

I broke a $20 bill just to have cash to give the barista on duty a tip for dealing with the woman. Seriously. There was no excuse for such stupidity.

It reminds me of a similar experience over the weekend.

I was with a friend - a non-Starbucks person who says "one of them frozen things" when she means a frappuccino and I always translate it for her at the register. I'm nice like that.

I was extolling the virtues of Cake Pops - breaking it down by color, flavor and telling her "it is cake on a stick - you have to try it." I *really* sold the Cake Pops (I love those things) - we stared at them for a little while while we were in line and wound up getting two.

There was a woman behind us who practically stuck her head into the middle of the conversation. Any closer and she'd have been standing in between us.

After we ordered, got the Cake Pops and moved away, the woman behind us - who'd eavesdropped on every word of the conversation, including my DETAILED breakdown of Tiramisu vs. Birthday Cake vs. Rocky Road and why I don't like Rocky Road because it "has too much stuff, says to the barista - "so, what are Cake Pops?" I hate stupid people.

Seriously, there some people should not be allowed to breed. Birth control in the water, with mandatory testing before you are allowed to procreate.

I just simply do not understand the stupidity of mankind.