Since the introduction of alarm clocks and children (the distinction between which blurs considerably at 6 a.m.) the average American has required a pint or two of coffee to get going in the morning. And because the operation of the typical coffee-making device requires a mental acuity only attainable after coffee, many of us are forced to get our java on the road (also an excellent place to find the ingredients for possum stew and the occasional discarded shoe.) This transaction used to take place at gas stations, drive-thrus, or in a pinch, the homes of startled neighbors, but that was B.S.: before Starbucks.
Locating a Starbucks is quite simple, if you have a dead cat on hand to swing about you. There are even Starbucks stores cozily nestled within other stores, like those birds that build their nests in the “a” of Macy’s. You may be, without your knowledge, inside a Starbucks this very minute; if you have a habit of standing too long in one location, a Starbucks may have been erected around you, because the country’s need for bug-eyed alertness is too great to wait around for you derelict loiterers to get out of the way. I’m currently petitioning to have a franchise installed in my bedroom, to simplify my commute and add to my collection of brown abstract art.
The problem with Starbucks is that they don’t have any coffee, which I generally consider a point against a coffee house. They do have a great deal of caffe, however, which is close enough, provided you’re not trying to win a spelling bee. If, against my advice, you are fool enough to ask for coffee, you’ll get instead an oral quiz: would you like Caffe Iglesias, made from Andajalabican beans picked in September by picturesque Guatemalan peasants riding llamas? Or Caffe Banderas, plucked by picturesque Nicaraguan peasants on donkeys? Once you choose the country and pack animal of origin, consider possible amendments; perhaps you’d like your cup of export to be jazzed up with some caramel, ginseng, or a shot of Demerol (especially popular around tax time.)
With these decisions made, don’t forget that at Starbucks, size is a critical issue, the protestations of the average American male notwithstanding. Perhaps out of sensitivity to average males, Starbucks is careful to avoid the word “small.” I believe the three sizes at Starbucks are Towering, Gibraltar, and Vertigo, the last of which contains enough caffeine to make David Brinkley seem perky (a feat made even more remarkable by the fact that David Brinkley passed away in 2003, though many thought it had happened years earlier.)
If you like, you can sit down and drink your lattemochaccinato inside Starbucks, although they discourage this by providing tables too small in diameter to be used as coasters. Besides, if you had that kind of time, you’d still be home, too blissfully unconscious and uncaffeinated to hear the noise of construction workers building a Starbucks in your neighbor’s gazebo.