Thursday, May 26, 2011

In Defense of Starbucks

I have to take medicines for a medical condition.  I have to take them with food -- specifically carbohydrates. On the rare occasions  I wait too long, or forget, I get dizzy spells.  I can work, or write, or use a computer; I just can't drive (or even walk steadily) until it goes away. That can be anywhere between thirty minutes and three hours.

The moment I feel one is imminent (they give me a few minutes warning), I know exactly what to do.  I find the nearest Starbucks and sit down, and proceed to snarf decaf and carbs until I feel fine again.  Why Starbucks?  Because they are ubiquitous.  And on the rare occasion I don't see one immediately, I stop at the next food establishment I see, or pull to the side of the road and call someone to come get me.

Which is why today I am sitting in the Starbucks on University Avenue in Palo Alto (where I was heading when it hit -- University Ave, not the Starbucks -- I was a block away), downing Skinny Decaf Carmel Macchiatos and madeleines.

People like me like Starbucks because it is familiar.  I would never go to one in a foreign country, where the opportunity to experience new and different things is right before one's eyes (and where there is likely to be much better coffee),  but at home, I know exactly what I am getting, and I find that oddly comforting.  (I also patronize local coffee shops when I am downtown in my hometown, but there are other options there that I am familiar with.)  There are other reasons to patronize the Starbucks near my house:  it is the only real neighborhood meeting place, and it pretty much kept the local strip shopping mall from going derelict.

I know many people view Starbucks as a menace, as a soulless corporation driving the local mom-and-pop coffee shops out of business.  And I know that is to some extent true.  Still, in an age where all of us are constantly on the move, finding something you can count on (even if the coffee is less than stellar) can make all the difference.

Especially to me.

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