This Starbucks obsession is getting out of hand. This morning my daughter and I made a quick pass into Starbucks before I took her to school. I had the entire medium (yes, I said medium - we’ll get to that later) skim latte gulped down before I even realized where I was.
When Hillary Clinton said that Barack Obama’s supporters were just a bunch of latte sipping elitists, I believe she was talking about me. When my son makes fun of me for carrying a Starbucks cup anywhere I have my braces on (and yeah, that’s pretty much everywhere these days), saying I’m too much like the yuppie Meg on Best in Show, I can only answer, “I can’t help it.” “Leave me alone.” Or, “Shut up, do you think you’re so perfect? Your mom!”
The fact is, I’ve bought into the Starbucks philosophy, which I believe is: “Coffee = Good. Drink more coffee. Coffee good. $3.80 isn’t really that much money if you think about it.”
It all started when our friends Chris and Teri opened a coffee shop in Illinois in the mid-’90s. I discovered espresso drinks much like the mild, likable, happy-go-lucky pot smoker discovers heroin. That revelation of how good it tasted, what a buzz it gave me, and how much fun it was to hang out at the place where the drinks were made, hit me like a brick. I started going to Chris and Teri’s Coffee Station more and more. One medium (yes, they actually called them mediums) latte wasn’t enough and soon I was finding excuses to stop by there every day, despite the fact that it was on a corner where there was no available parking and I had to cross a dangerous street and railroad tracks to get there. I graduated to larges and then one day took the step and ordered a mega.
Teri, my dealer, had only my best interests in mind, though. I started to experiment with other drinks and sipped my first mocha. I told Teri I thought I could get used to drinking thatevery few hours. She put down the scones she was holding and turned to me, took me by the shoulders and said, “You don’t want to do that. Do you know how much sugar and sweetener we put in the mocha?” And then she told me. I shuddered to think how close I had come to that slippery slope.
Some years passed, we moved away from the Coffee Station and I found myself settling for the substitute - Starbucks. I knew I wasn’t supposed to patronize them. They’re evil, right? They blatantly insult our collective intelligence by naming all three drink sizes “large” in some other language, Italian, I guess. A small is “Tall,” a medium is “Grande” and a large is “Venti,” which in Italian means “20” and in French means “Snippy Attitude.”
I still order mediums, though. The baristas have stopped their little game where they respond to my order by launching into this exchange:
Barista: “A grande skim latte?”
Me: “A medium.”
Me: “I don’t know, whatever the medium size is called.”
Barista: “A grande?”
Me: “Whatever. Yeah, just give me the friggin’ drink!”
Barista: “A grande drink?”
Me: “OK, now I need a large.”
My son has accepted the Starbucks Name Challenge and not only refuses to use the words of the Starbucks language, but won’t complete his order until the barista says the English word, thus surrendering to him. Or until she starts to cry. Whatever comes first. He has leaned across me from the passenger seat of the car, yelled into the drive-thru intercom, “NO! Not a Venti, a LARGE! Large! Say it! Say it! Large!”
I keep telling him to shut up. They could cut us off, for crying out loud. And then where would we be? Back at the railroad tracks in some Illinois town, trying to score some espresso, one piccolo at a time.