The first time you and I watched 'Fight Club' we had little qualms about plots to blow up the headquarters of Starbucks, remember? That was 1999, two years before 9/11. Have you seen that movie lately? I haven't, but I think it's worth a review in light of several years of history. It is, quite likely, the model of an American Cell. The disaffected youths of Fight Club, the crypto-underground pseudo-revolutionaries hated Starbucks. Why did we sympathize? Why do people hate Starbucks? Do you hate Starbucks? I don't.
In fact, over the past few months I have become more and more enamored with the place. It started subtly with their promotion of Akeelah and the Bee. And the seed was planted a couple years ago when I initiated Tea Time.. Let me go there.
Every day at 3pm, the alarm on my Casio G-Shock goes off. It reminds me to stop what I'm doing and evaluate what I have to do to make the rest of my day complete. If there are any voicemails I haven't answered, any dinner plans unmade, any assessments incomplete I do them all to make sure that my day will be a good day. This was more important when I was running my own show and less important these days, but the habit is a good one. Back in the days of Metro Decisions, I did take the moment to enjoy an Earl Grey or Chai Spice in my stainless Starbucks insulated cup. These more lazy days, I can sometimes even slip out for a Starbucks run and grab a mocha frapuccino. But the days are getting less lazy as I move over into project management, and I actually have 8am meetings with the guys in Chennai. So I have increasingly found myself at Starbucks at 7:30 in the morning on the receiving end of an efficient query, such as 'What can I get for your sweetie?'
The answer is Grande Mocha with Whip Cream.
Starbucks plays good music. Starbucks has dark olive walls on the business end, blue porcelain fixtures hanging from the ceiling and bright wood tables and chairs. The floor is tile. The conversation is cheerful. The laptops are plugged in and the people are dressed for work. There is a cheerful efficiency at Starbucks early in the morning as people fuel themselves up for work. Everything is custom made to order, no formula too complicated. It's a staging ground for the work Americans do in office buildings. It's the white collar jumpstart.
I'm starting to recognize some of the Starbucks customers. There's the big baldhead black man who sits in the northeast corner behind his VAIO laptop with his noise-canceling headphones on. There's the guy named Abel who gets 8 cups for everybody in his office and clogs up the line. This morning there was a man doing an oil painting of a ballet dancer just outside the doors.
I used to go to the Magic Johnson Starbucks in Ladera Heights fairly regularly. That place is filled with screenwriters, chess players, party promoters, grad students and outside in front, the Friday evening cigar crew. When I was considering running for the 43rd district, they were going to be my first constituents. But I have long abandoned such ideas. Still, every time that I go there, which isn't very often, I feel the need to put up a flyer or pass out business cards advertising The Conservative Brotherhood or this blog. But I have successfully resisted the temptation of marketing myself, not only because I suck at it, but because I am gradually being convinced that fame is pollution. Have you seen the Creed? it begins:
To live as gently as I can;
To be, no matter where, a man;
To take what comes of good or ill
And cling to faith and honor still;
To do my best, and let that stand
The record of my brain and hand;
And then, should failure come to me,
Still work and hope for victory.
Simple. Honest, and yet capable of being a foundation bearing great weight. I like the simple honest hope getting a burst of caffeine in the morning in the hopes of doing a better job during the day. It is a daily dose of dedication. And while some people might see some great volume of pretense in the ordering of a 3 dollar cup of double latte with skim milk extra hot, I do not. I see it as part of a daily meditation and an expression of commitment to work. At Starbucks in the morning I see working people in pastel colors, briskly preparing for their daily duties.
That's a good thing.