Are We There Yet?
I’m driving to work along a stretch of road that has been under construction for at least a year. Usually as I approach the miles of orange barrels, I gun the accelerator and pass as many commercial trucks as possible. Staring up the business end of a eighteen wheeler’s exhaust system isn’t my idea of the best way to start a morning. Today, however, I’m running on autopilot. Too late I realize I am out of road and out of time to pass the slower moving traffic, which is how I found myself behind the fry truck. In front of me, painted in a four foot high mural, is a pack of McDonald’s french fries with the words “Are we there yet?” emblazoned across the back door of the semi. If by “there” you mean “hell”, then yes, I would say we’ve been there for a while.
McDonald’s is a concept I still fail to understand. The food is universally horrible – I remember hating the stuff even as a kid at a time when I would still gleefully ask if my mother would make mac n’ cheese for dinner – you know, the orange stuff from the box? Even then I knew McDonald’s represented the dark satanic underworld of what passed for a ten year old’s view of world cuisine. What McDonald’s was to me as a child, Starbuck’s has become now that I’ve grown-up. Sure, it’s higher quality food stuffs, environmentally more responsible, and they occasionally have a good CD for sale – but show a condemned man the seventh circle of hell and he’s liable to think the fifth circle ain’t so bad after all. Which brings me back my story. Before I wound up behind the nearly man sized frite with the two inch diameter grain of salt clinging to its greasy flesh, I suffered the misfortune of having to stomach a morning meeting with a client at one of Lexington’s thirteen thousand or so Starbuck’s. Accompanying my client this morning was his boss, a man who apparently enjoyed holding meetings at Starbuck’s rather than more traditional venues like, say, a conference room. The fact the other participants of today’s tete-a-tete, myself and my client, do not partake of the caffeinated trade-free zone frappa-mocha-cuppa whatever-the-hell they-are-called coffee drinks the place serves did not deter El Hefe one bit. I walked in and there he sat, smiling in all his coffee flavored glory. My client smiled apologetically while sipping orange juice and dining on a morning bowl of non-rain forest depleting oatmeal. That’s all it took for me to know that I needed a shot of bourbon, and I needed it now. It was going to be a long morning.
My loveless, hate filled relationship with America’s largest coffee chain dates back years ago to an incident in Kansas City. I was at a Barnes & Noble bookstore with an old friend, a former Marine whose job it was to kill terrorists at a time before killing terrorists was cool. He suggested a quick coffee to ward off the autumn chill in the air, so we adjourned to the co-located aforementioned coffee house. Once there my friend of fifteen years, a six foot – four inch tall, two hundred and forty pound mountain of intimidation, the guy I’ve seen single handedly take on a bar full of drunks, the man who owns enough firearms to make Ted Nugent look like a girlie-man, proceeded to order the most effeminate sounding cup of coffee I’d ever heard. I was astounded. I stared at him, dumbfounded, as he sipped his froth laden whipped cream topped java and said “It’s like a coffee milkshake. You should try one.” I’m pretty sure this is NOT what the Corps had in mind back on Parris Island. It was then I became convinced that Starbuck’s was nothing more than an incipient terrorist ploy to render our red blooded American fighting men into caffeine addicted soy milk drinking rifle droppers. Since this hero-shattering experience I’ve been unable to enjoy the rapidly expanding empire of Seattle’s greatest export. The next time I want a dose of Starbuck’s, I’ll tune into a Battlestar Galactica marathon.
To top it off, I’ve now discovered that Starbuck’s is to blame for the apparent act of hari-kiri my 401K committed in October. Check out the article on Slate.com which details the linkage between the Seattle coffee chain and the chaos in the financial markets (http://www.slate.com/id/2202707/). So it was with this in mind, the gut retching knowledge that my retirement had been jeopardized by coffee slurping Wall Street floor traders, and the utter desolation I felt following behind Ronald’s harbinger of oncoming arteriosclerosis that I realized I must make a plea for the salvation of our country – at least in the culinary sense.
Please, think of your families and loved ones next time you hit the drive through to order a Biggie size meal or a Grande cup of joe, and resist the urge to be assimilated. Remember, you are fraternizing with the enemy of all things good, righteous and delicious. Escoffier would not approve.