Standing in line at Starbucks

Wednesday, August 15, 2012 | | 2 comments

I don’t think I’ve ever been comfortable in line at Starbucks. Well, I suppose I was comfortable enough the first time, roughly twelve years ago, but that’s exactly when a lot of these problems began.

I was attending a business conference in Orlando, Florida and – my memory is a bit cloudy on the details – I was between meetings, likely the company financial update and the meeting where we were told we had just been named the single greatest concern in the history of business. There may have been a plaque, but as I said, my memory is not perfect on this point.
“I could really go for a coffee,” I said to one of my colleagues.
“Look! There’s a Starbucks right over there!” they said.
I had heard of Starbucks, but before it magically appeared that day in the hotel, I had never been a customer. Excitedly, I approached the counter. My excitement quickly disappeared though when I glanced at the menu and became confused beyond description. What I wanted was a coffee, “a normal, regular coffee,” I may have added, but nowhere did I see anything that matched this description. Not even close.
Behind the counter was what appeared to be a woman, but I later learned this was not a woman at all, but a barista. It is almost impossible to tell the difference, but these distinctions are part of the Starbucks charm and must be recognized.  Like all good baristas, she could sense that I was confused by the menu and offered to help me make my choice. I was thrilled that she spoke English, but remember I was new to the whole barista thing.  I told her that I really wanted a normal, regular coffee, and she impressed me by asking four or five qualifying questions that no one at my local coffee shop had ever taken the time to ask. I made a mental note to scold them when I returned home for their total disregard of my true coffee needs, relative to the Starbucks experience unfolding before me.
Having established exactly the type of normal, regular coffee that suited me perfectly, we moved onto the matter of size. Again, I was unable to quickly grasp the unique names of the different cups and resorted to demonstrating the size I wanted by holding my hands apart as a fisherman might do when describing the size of a largemouth bass, realizing only too late that pointing to the cups was a superior option.   Undaunted, I waited for my perfect coffee, served in the perfect cup, prepared by a barista -- which is practically like having an angel serve you. Really, it’s nearly the same thing.  
Little did I know, I was about to be surprised -- very surprised. The barista returned with my order, but it didn’t look at all like I was expecting. Instead, she presented what appeared to be a hot chocolate with cinnamon sprinkles, whipped cream, chocolate flakes and quite possibly a breadstick. There is no doubt that I should have realized something was going horribly wrong when my drink took seven minutes to create and required a blender, but I had been under an angel trance and missed all of it.
That was a long time ago and I’ve learned enough to never repeat the disaster of Orlando, but it’s hardly stress free to stand in line today. I’ve learned that normal, regular coffee is a Pike Place Roast, but as I stand in line, I practice saying “I’ll have a Pike Place Roast, please,” which is possibly the hardest thing I ever have to say. Even in my head it often comes out “I’ll have a Pike Pace Roast, Peese” or sometimes “a Plike Plake Roast, Peese,” the word “Roast” somehow always coming out as intended.
I’ve learned the sizes too: Short, Tall, Grande and Venti. I don’t practice saying Grande and Venti because I’m entirely unsure of the proper way to say them so it makes little difference if I say Grand-ay or Grand-ee, Vent-ee, Vent-ay or Vant-ay, so I simply blurt out whatever version comes out that day, fully expecting baristas to gather after work and imitate me to their families and friends. Nowhere else is my inability to speak Italian such a problem and when what comes next is “I’ll have a Pleak Paced Roast, Plike Please,” really, what difference does it make?
One of the things I genuinely enjoy about Starbucks is enjoying my coffee on one of the comfortable couches or chairs. At my last visit however, I looked around and saw that the only available seats were the less comfortable wooden seats, unless I wanted to share a small couch with a woman who seemed even less likely than me to enjoy the idea.
Just then, a group started to get up to leave and I thought I’d found my comfy seat! But before I could get there, a woman who had left her friends in line to hover near the comfortable seats claimed them all.  They were working in teams – a brilliant tactic! I hadn’t seen it coming, but really, what chance did I have?
I guess that’s just one more thing to worry about.

Back roads

Wednesday, August 8, 2012 | | 1 comments

Everyone’s gone to the washroom? You’re all wearing your seatbelts? Ok, let’s go.

You sure we didn’t forget anything? Ok.
I love this road because there’s never any traffic. I’ll bet a lot of people don’t even know of this road. Yes, I know you got a ticket on this road once, but in all the times I’ve been on this road, I’ve never seen any speed traps. It doesn’t mean I’m going to speed, I’m just saying I’ve never seen...never mind.
That’s an amazing house on that corner, but I’d never want to live this far from town. Yes, I suppose it’s not really that far from town.
Yes, that smell is coming from outside the van...it’s that farm over there. Yes, I know, they’re chicken coops, but how you think you know the difference between chicken coops and other farms and smells....
Isn’t that nice? Look at the fresh hay bales in that field! I love that. Doesn’t that look amazing the way they sit in that field, on the hills? They look so much better when they’re round rather than those squares that you still see sometimes. I suppose it would be cubes not squares.
Ugh! Why is it that someone is always driving this speed on this road when there’s no chance to pass? I know, we’re at our corner in a minute anyway. I know.
Did you know that it may not be called Marden Road on this stretch? Yeah, I noticed the last time through that it’s something else on this side of highway six. Yeah, we’re never actually on Marden Road. Not sure what this is called. I’m sure we’ll keep calling it Marden Road...passes through Marden, so that’s what it is to me.
Kids, do we need to go to the washroom? Because we’re in Fergus and this is the last washroom we’re going to see. No, we still have a long way to go...we just left Cambridge about half an hour ago.
This is my turn here isn’t it? Don’t know why I always think it’s the next turn. I think I still feel like we’re going to the next corner like we used to even though we haven’t gone that way in years. It was nice driving through Fergus, past the ball diamond where I played when I was a kid, but this is faster, that’s for sure. It’s not a ball diamond now, but seems to be where they have the Highland Games. I’ve told you about the time I got pulled over going around this corner in a snowstorm when the officer said I wasn’t in the turning lane? I don’t know how anyone could have seen a turning lane on a day like that...yeah, I thought I’d told you.
This is Bellwood Lake, kids. Wow, this lake always looks so nice. We really should look at what it would cost to have a place here. Nope, no one jumping off the bridge today. Wonder why there are either 20 people or no one jumping off the bridge? Maybe depends on the time of day.
Haha! That guy still has that sign on his lawn that says, “It’s 50 you idiot.” Man, he must be so mad at people driving too fast. It’s a weird speed limit though, coming down that hill, it’s impossible to be going 50 unless you turn at the corner like we do and have to slow down...
No, I had to change it because we were losing the station. No, I’m not going back to that song. You’ve got your iPod, why don’t you just listen to that? Well, maybe we’ll get that song for you. No, not now, later. When we’re home. Just listen to your—
I know, I always take that curve too fast. One of these days I’ll be going the right speed. I know, in the van I can’t be going as fast as my car. I know.
This is a funny four way stop. Why do they even have those two roads? Have you ever, even once, seen a car on either of those roads? Ah well, makes no difference I suppose.
Look kids, see that hawk? Up there! Over there! Look at where I’m pointing...no, you’re not looking where I’m—
You can’t see it now. Well, I can’t do anything about it. I know you wanted to see it, I can’t—
I don’t know why I point these out. I still think it’s interesting to see a hawk, but I realize that I’ve created this thought in my head that hawks are really rare and I like to point them out, but they’re really not. When I was a kid, I thought they were rare...
The speed limit in this town is a little crazy. Why do they make us go 40 through here? If you were actually doing 40, by the time you got up that hill, you’d be stopped.
Do you remember the time we came through here and they had the sign saying the road was going to be closed for something, but it wasn’t for an hour, but it was closed already? That was so weird...how do they just close the road an hour earlier than what the sign said?
Wow, I just noticed they have a Sears store, but it’s just a place where you can order things and pick up packages. I remember those from when I was a kid, but thought they had all gone away. Wow.
That restaurant is advertising hot coffee, that little ma and pa. Wonder if anyone stops just for that? I remember they have that sign too that says washrooms are for paying customers only. Do you remember the time we had to buy a coffee because the kids needed to use the washroom? Yeah, we probably didn’t need to buy anything...
I swear, some of these vehicles have been for sale for about eight years. When do you give up? Must be a pain to always have a truck like that parked at the end of your driveway for eight years.
Yep, it’s been eight years that we’ve been taking this way to the cottage. I know...hard to believe. Lauren was only two and Alex wasn’t even born yet. We had our other van too, we didn’t have this one yet.
Yes, this is where you lost your “Stitch” doll. No, probably not still there. That was a few years ago wasn’t it? I know you got another one. No, I’m sure someone picked it up or it disintegrated along the side of the road. I know you have a new one, so no need to worry.
Hey kids, we’re coming up on the windmills! Yep, half way there. An hour to go. One hour. That’s two TV shows. No, that’s more than an hour. It’s going to take us an hour to get there. The whole trip is two hours. We’ve been on the road for an hour.
Wow, there are a lot of signs around here for these windmills. The quarry too. We need to protect the fish! No idea where the quarry is going. Must be somewhere around here.
Wow, people here sure seem to have problems with these windmills. Look at that one – Wind Turbines Destroy Communities. Wind Turbines We All Lose. I have no idea what the problem is, must be something. I wonder how they got so many, but now everyone hates them? Yeah, that’s strange.
Look at those hay bales! Isn’t that nice? Seriously, the way the sun hits them in that field, with the blue sky, I can’t get enough of that.
Kids, do you need to use the washroom? We’re coming up to the gas station. Do we need more gas? We’ll wait until we get to Collingwood? Ok. So we are getting gas? Ok, how much? Ok.
I will never understand how this next gas station with only two pumps can always be so much more expensive than the bigger one that we just passed, the one with the washroom! I mean, really, does anyone ever buy their gas from that guy? You’d have to not know about the other station and mistakenly buy gas from him, the price is always more. It’s crazy.
Looks like the hockey team is collecting again. I think they must be out here every weekend collecting money! Do you have some change? Yeah, that’s good. Perfect.
They’re collecting for their hockey team. Must need money for something. I know you play hockey. Yep, maybe you’ll be collecting like they are.
Yes, we are on the hill. Oh, I don’t know...another half an hour, maybe less? One TV show...
There are a lot of little places off of this road. I wonder if we’ll ever get to any of them. Probably not.
It said “Mad River.” It’s the name of the river we just crossed. Not sure why it’s called Mad River...no, it doesn’t seem very mad to me either. Maybe it’s mad somewhere else, just not at the road.
Yep, almost there. We’ll be there in about 10 minutes. Not sure what we’re going to do when we get to the cottage, we’re not there yet. We’ll figure it out then, ok?
Ok.