Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Sound of Starbucks

It is with some embarrassment that I can admit to being an expert on pretty much all aspects of Starbucks. Not only do I start each day with my Grand Skinny Cinnamon Dolce Latte (diva!), but I often supplement that with a piece of coffee cake, and lately I’ve been picking up lunch there at the same time. How exciting that I can sustain myself with food almost exclusively from Starbucks. I also have not one but two Christmas ornaments of little Starbucks cups- they’re adorable! Good behavior in church is rewarded with a stop by Starbucks for a donut (when do the kids outgrow the need for bribery and/or rewards for good behavior in church, by the way? I have three kids in high school!). Failure to make the cut for any sort of tryout is immediate grounds for a Frappuccino; same with new braces. What’s not to love, except possibly the prices? It is truly a store for every occasion! Never mind that it might be eclipsing McDonalds as the cause of obesity.

The two Starbucks that I frequent could not be more different from each other. The one closest to my house is large with comfortable, oversized chairs, ample tables, and a full selection of shopping opportunities from mugs to candy to actual cappuccino makers. There is outdoor seating and on any given morning, particularly on the weekends, there is a good crowd that appears ready to spend the entire day camped out there (which you could do because of the nice restroom and, as I mentioned, an array of food). Most of those people also come with their dogs, who also seems to know each other, and cute, sporty dog water bowls. It’s suburban Starbucks at its finest. Contrast that to my downtown work Starbucks. Not only is there no outdoor seating, but there is also no room for any indoor seating or merchandise for sale. Often, unfortunately, there is also not enough space for the line of patrons, which often extends out the door in the morning- unpleasant during the winter.

There is a marked difference in the workers at both locations, as well. Suburban Starbucks has a gentle, polite staff who never fails to ask me if I need any ground coffee for my coffeemaker at home, despite the fact that they know I drink latte. Also, why would I want to make coffee at home when I can spend almost $5 for a cup at their store? Those workers are so professional they may have received their college degrees in barista-ing. They listen carefully to my drink order, repeat it clearly for the person calmly making all the drinks and then that person repeats the order back to ensure complete accuracy. The workers at my downtown Starbucks? Country Mouse and City Mouse looks like clones compared to the workers at home vs. work Starbucks. They call me “Honey” and “Girlfriend” downtown. They do not care about my coffee situation at home. They know my order before I place it and my drink is often ready by the time I’ve paid.

What is the biggest reason I love my downtown Starbucks? The music, of course. Last Saturday, I was in suburban Starbucks with my youngest daughter and I commented to her with horror that there was no music playing whatsoever. Mind you, there was a pleasant hum of book groups chatting, families sharing hot chocolate and high schoolers studying…but no music? Not only is downtown Starbucks borderline claustrophobic, but it is also LOUD. The music is blaring and the gals are belting out the words to whatever is playing. Lately I’ve noticed that they’ve been playing the latest Sheryl Crow album- and here I thought that album was mostly good for a nap on the porch (no disrespect as I love naps on the porch). Seriously, it is almost impossible for your mood not to be bumped up a notch or two just from getting your coffee. They don’t take themselves seriously and they are enjoying and sharing good music. What better way to start your day?

I always pick up those little free music cards when they have a new one out. Again, they are displayed with great punctuality at home; when they get around to putting them out downtown they tend to be cards I picked up a month earlier in the ‘burbs. As a tribute to Starbucks and its music, here are some of the recent songs from those cards that I am most partial to. It plays right into one of my career goals of quitting my job in middle management and becoming the person who hopefully gets paid a lot of money to choose what music is displayed at the Starbucks counters and what songs to put on those little cards. Wish me luck!

By Some Miracle (Philip Selway)
Better Days (Eddie Vedder)
Loving You is Easy (Sarah McLachlan)
Southern Pacifica (Josh Ritter)
Little Fire (Patty Griffin, feat. Emmylou Harris)
Everybody’s Hurting (Jakob Dylan)
The High Road (Broken Bells)
Modern Man (The Watson Twins)
Everybody Needs Love (Findlay Brown)
Mystery Zone (Spoon)

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