Coffee Culture: Slave to the Popular
Thank you, Friends, for introducing our society to the mind numbing and ever prevalent notion of coffee culture. Because I, like the rest of the world, have nothing but an abundance of free time and a burning desire to sulk on a cushy sofa, in the middle of the bustling city, and sip some half moldy, ten dollar drip for two hours straight.
Thus... the epidemic of Starbucks.
Today, I receive a text message. My dear old friend would like to meet and now I have to actually go to this nonoffensive, uber-trendy, retch-inducing place.
Parking is sparse when I pull onto the lot. A girl with long, flowing blonde hair (that looks as though she hasn’t washed in a week) dressed in an equally long, flowing, and dirty looking dress shlumps in, shoving a wad of papers into her bag as she goes. Two high school girls giggle as they pass me in yoga pants, hovering over some amusing YouTube video. I see my friend’s funky little Kia Soul, among a Civic, two Camry’s, and three Priuses, close to the door.
It could be noted that I drive a Hyundai Veloster. It is black. It is sexy. It is not a Prius.
I am hit with a wave of sweat, the bitter wooden smell of old coffee, and some sickeningly sweet syrup as I enter the structure. There are two ladies at the counter who clearly just came from the gym, despite the full face of makeup they both display. (This explains the sweat smell?) One, skinnier than Taylor Swift on methamphetamines, flirts outrageously with the guy in the apron behind the counter. I suppress an eye roll.
The counter stands directly before the door, the space to which can be crossed in about ten steps. The rest of the floor, which extends to the left, consists of grey stone tables, cushy arm chairs, low laying coffee tables, and a few half booths against the dark wood-paneled walls. Large color photographs of coffee cups, and coffee beans, and coffee books, and coffee bags, and coffee puppies, and coffee hammers are hung above my eye level. There is also a service bar, with the standard shakers and napkins, etc., in this general area as well.
Seated in one of the armchairs is Quigley. He waves ecstatically and jogs to meet me.
“Hey Q,” I say.
Q is average height. Maybe a little taller. He wears skinny jeans and a blazer, and shoes that look like polished duck bills on his feet.
“Hey! You made it!” A quick hug. “I love this place. It is so much better than the one near work.”
“I wouldn’t know,” I inform him. “Have you ordered yet?”
“Well, yeah... Kinda.”
Just then one of the baristas calls out, “Quig...ley?”
“Just order, I saved you a seat.”
He jogs to the pickup counter, and am left to my own devices in the growing line of Starbucks-goers before me.
The menu is weird. ...A flat white? A flat white what? Frappuccino? Macchiato? Who the hell names this stuff?
“A Vanilla Double Shot on Ice. Extra ice, and go easy on the syrup,” says the man in front of me. He looks like a business type, briefcase, suit, and all, and he winks at me as he steps out of line.
I take my place in the front of the line, and stare like an idiot at the fake chalk boards.
“Can’t decide?” says Apron Boy.
“Can I make a recommendation?”
I actually look at him now. He is tall, and thin, with a slight five o’clock shadow. He has curly dark chocolate hair, and wears glasses. His name is Smudge. (There is something on his name tag.)
“Sure?” I answer.
“You can’t go wrong with a Vanilla Latte,” says Smudge the Apron Boy.
“I’m actually not a coffee person?” I tell him.
“Oh. Well, you like chocolate?”
I nod a little.
“I could make you a specialty chocolate,” he says, and half smiles. “It would match your eyes.”
He’s cute, I’ve decided.
I pay for my drink. ($5.86!) I stand by the pick-up counter. I wait.
Though there is a definite hodge-podge of people in this joint, I can define them all with one word: conformist. The business dude, now clicking away at his lap top in the corner, the gym girls, the huddle of teenagers with their scarves and skinny pants, and heavy eye makeup. They all come here because it is popular and cool to be here. The coffee culture reigns supreme.
I don’t look like I would stand out much. I’m just wearing a black t-shirt and jeans. But my choice in coming here is significant. If I wanted to come here because it was popular and cool, it would make me a conformist too. Who in this generation likes coffee because they like coffee? A few, sure, but the whole freaking generation? Starbucks is a money sucking trend. Nothing more.
When my drink is ready, (Caution! Contents may be hot! THANKS. WHO WOULD HAVE THOUGHT.) I join Q, who swings his feet off a chair that feels like it is made of toasted marshmallows. He is surrounded by a small ocean of paper wrappings.
“Jesus, did you order the entire menu?”
“I was hungry,” he says defensively and sticks half a toaster sandwich in his mouth. (They didn’t even make that here, I note.That crap is made in a factory and trucked in. It’s a six dollar Hot Pocket, for crying out loud.)
I peer through the steaming hole in my lid at the foamy white substance in the cup.
“Whad’ya get?” asks Q.
I shrug and hand him the cup. He takes an almighty swig.
“That’s hot!” I sort of lunge at him, but pull my arms back. Nothing fazes Q.
“That... is so good,” he tells me. “It’s like a peppermint patty... liquefied.”
He hands the cup back to me. I hear more giggling from the counter. Three high-schoolers are flirting with Smudge. I wonder if he gets a lot of after work opportunities with this job.
“Aren’t you going to try it?” Q presses.
I hesitate, peer through the lid again, and press my lips to the plastic.
Immediately, my tongue is scalded. I choke back the tears.
“Oh, yeah. It’s hot,” Q reminds me.
I smack my forehead with dramatic disgust.
We chat for a few minutes, about whatever, and I notice the sun begin to set outside the windows. The lights are dimming as it fades away in the west.
Suddenly, I am tapped on the shoulder.
“I thought you might like to try this.”
I look up. It is Smudge. He half smiles and hands me a clear plastic cup, obviously something with ice.
“This matches your eyes, too,” he tells me. “And you won’t choke on it.”
He backs away shyly. Q tries my present.
“That’s a Mocha Frappuchino! I swear it is!”
I peer into the straw. It is some unidentifiable creamy beige fluid with darker brown ribbons swirled around the cup. I smell it.
“Just. Drink. It.” Q instructs.
So I do.
It tastes like earth, and sugar, and sort of like cardboard, and some grandmother’s attic, and above all chocolate. Glorious chocolate. I drink some more, sipping through the straw as Smudge looks over his customer’s shoulder, grinning at me, and before I know it, my cup is empty.
Smudge gives me a thumbs up, which I match.
“I can’t believe you just drank a Mocha Frappuchino!” enthuses Q. He bites into some sort of pastry as he says this.
“I just didn’t think you would.”
I nodded, confused.
“Well, what is this other-worldly delicious Mocha Latte anyway?” I asked.
Q smiles strangely.