Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Someone Hates Starbucks. What else is new?

Stanley Fish is a well-known postmodernist. If you don't recognize the name, it just goes to show you how popular postmodernists are. Anyway, Fish apparently has a problem with coffee, in particular Starbucks. While he correctly addresses the faux intimacy and mass-produced sophistication in the Starbucks setting, the rest of the essay is where he loses me.

After entering the Starbucks, Fish is perplexed by the fact that he has to do what most everyone has to do when they go to any place of service: wait:

...First you have to get in line, and you may have one or two people in front of you who are ordering a drink with more parts than an internal combustion engine, something about "double shot," "skinny," "breve," "grande," "au lait" and a lot of other words that never pass my lips. If you are patient and stay in line (no bathroom breaks), you get to put in your order, but then you have to find a place to stand while you wait for it. There is no such place. So you shift your body, first here and then there, trying not to get in the way of those you can't help get in the way of.
Sure, these people with their phrases and their sheer hatred for coffee* suck, but come on, Fish. Have you never had to wait in a three Michelin star restaurant for the next part of your seven-course meal because I know you eat seven-course meals. Maybe only on special days, but Fish has definitely had one.

Actually, Fish's preference towards fancy meals has led him to become used to not servicing himself. Fish has become used to being served everything the way that he wants it, as he also expresses bewilderment at the service counter. You know, that thing you go to when you want to put stuff in your coffee like sugar or cream if you are a plebeian and got a regular cup of coffee or add that extra bit of cinnamon to your non-coffee drink (see star above for explanation). This preference towards fancy meals has led Fish to also become bewildered by the concept of setting your coffee down while doing all of the modification to it.

As this all seems, Fish, even though he's totally loaded, complains about spending three bucks and up for a cup of coffee. Fish complains because he feels that the servers should actually make his coffee the way that he wants it, especially if he is paying three dollars for it. If Fish weren't trying to be bougy, he could just go to Dunkin' Donuts where they actually make your coffee the way you want it for about half the price. There's also this new thing called a coffee machine. Fish might want to invest in one of those as well. But, wait, he doesn't do work. Coffee machine out then. Whatever was I thinking suggesting that Fish do his own work.

This old man complaint continues on into the realm of paying for stuff with credit cards. The great ease offered to him by swiping his card while his groceries are being rung up is apparently too much for him to handle as Fish also rails against this process. He calls it "shifting the burden of labor to the consumer." I call it being an asshole who is too lazy to push a couple of buttons.

As you can well sense, this is one of the worst op-eds ever written. Fish makes old people, postmodernists, coffee drinkers, lawyers, and intellectuals all look bad in the space of 753 words. Quite the impressive feat. If this weren't enough, Slate piled on as well with a cutting piece of satire on this editorial.

*People go to Starbucks and get syrup and all other types of crap in their coffee. After a point in time, it stops being coffee and becomes non-coffee. The caffeine is still there, but the soul is gone because it has been masqueraded by foam, syrup shots, and whatever other nonsense people get in their coffee at Starbucks. Coffee and milk? Fine. I do it all of the time. I put milk in my percolated coffee. The two things were meant to be together. But, most of the drinks at Starbucks are overly sweet and sugary. They are, essentially, coffee for people who hate coffee. If you are wondering about whether you fall into this category, you hate coffee if you can't drink anything but specialty drinks from Starbucks. Period. If you cannot body up and drink a simple cup of coffee either black, with milk and/or a teaspoon or two of sugar then you hate coffee. If you can't drink an espresso with a couple of cubes of sugar to cut the bitterness, you hate coffee. There's no two ways around it. Fancy presentations are only the sign of a luxurious disavowal of the obvious. I like a fancy coffee from time to time, but I also like coffee I get from donut shops more. But, that's also because I can get it for cheap and am not a coffee snob; I drink whatever I can put in my cup. If you can't appreciate a well-made cup of simple coffee, then you hate coffee.