Could You Ever Work at Starbucks?

Photo © 2006 idogcow CC 2.0 BY

I really wanted to put up a blog post or two this week. After all, I’ve been absent, due to the large amount of work it takes to give away loads of books, together with the energy I’ve been spending trying to untangle one of the most confusing messes of a software spaghetti that I’ve ever seen. (There’s only one other software codebase that I’ve worked on that approaches this one in its poor quality.)

So, to sum up: Been gone. Busy developing software. For money (not for fun). Giving away books. Need to blog. But about what?

I have a few stories in my queue: how my Firstborn daughter got into a cool new school, how I totalled the second car I ever had almost-brand-new, how I watched You, On a Diet and realized I need to lose 3½” from my waist, how I’ve been cutting back on stress and caffeine and have had fewer headaches as a result (probably), how I sent a package to the wrong address (and how it helped restore some of my faith in humanity), how I discovered that Edie Brickell is married to Paul Simon— And where I have been all these years that I never knew that before?

Eh. Didn’t really feel like writing about any of them.

I considered writing about Hanukkah. Even had a great title picked out for the post, “On the First Night of Hanukkah,” even though tonight is the eighth and last night of Hanukkah. But all the content I really had went something like this:

Here in the U.S., Hanukkah is frequently associated with Christmas, because they usually occur around the same time in December. This year, however Hanukkah starts less than a week after Thanksgiving. And how fitting, because Hanukkah is more like a Jewish Thanksgiving rather than a Jewish Christmas—as much as any Jewish holiday is more like Thanksgiving than like Christmas—remembering how the Maccabees conquered religious persecution. Here in the U.S., celebrating the holiday so close to Thanksgiving gives special meaning to the Shehecheyanu, the Blessing of Thanksgiving that is sung at the beginning of Jewish holidays or whenever a new, exciting, or significant good thing happens to you.

And that’s it. Pretty cool thought. Too much for a Twitter tweet or Facebook status update. Not quite enough for a post in itself. And I felt unsure of adding any more, at least not without mulling it over for another 11 years (until the next time Hanukkah falls that early in the Gregorian year).

As it turned out, the thing I’ve really been feeling passionate about lately is the WikiLeaks hubbub. Now, indeed, I have written about politics on this blog before. And given my penchant for free speech—and my policy, on all my sites, for letting people comment as they will, no matter what they say or how offensive they become—you can probably guess what position I hold on WikiLeaks. I even got into a semi-public mini-argument with a guy who wanted to personally murder Julian Assange, because I thought he was only engaging in tasteless hyperbole. (Quickly ended that conversation. That’s the kind of character you smile at and speak calmly to.)

But even though I usually post heavy-duty-serious posts on Wednesday, I didn’t want to come back to blogging with one. Besides, I’m not sure I could add anything to the topic except a list of excellent articles and commentaries, which I have been sharing with my Facebook friends. (But not posting on my Facebook page; and the reason I haven’t been posting them on my Facebook page is the same reason I didn’t want to come back to blogging on that topic.) Or maybe a list of how the WikiLeaks controversy is similar to the Pentagon Papers controversy. But not today, maybe next week.

So… Need to blog. But about what?

And then it hit me. Just like that. It hit me when walked into my favorite Starbucks and ordered a Venti decaf non-fat no-whip mocha.

See, I’ve been spending a great deal of time in my favorite Starbucks. I drive my Firstborn daughter to school in the morning (her cool new school). Then I frequently take up my laptop, order a coffee drink (usually decaffeinated), and camp out in my favorite Starbucks and work. From time to time, I’ve noticed a poster in the window, advertising that if you were looking for money, they were looking for help. And I wondered what it would be like to work in a Starbucks, just for a few months, just for the experience, just for the fun of it. At least at my favorite Starbucks, they’ve got a system, a finely tuned premium-fast-food-fulfillment machine. I sit back and just watch them work, and I’m impressed. I wonder what it would be like to be a part of something like that. I wonder what I could learn.

And then I ordered a mocha, because I love mocha… as a special treat, mind you; I don’t think I could stand drinking it all the time. But I’ve been cutting down on my saturated fats, because You, On a Diet, as I touched on above. So, I’d have to get it with non-fat milk. And skip the whipped cream. (And just ignore the sugar, because I can’t think of what else to do with it.) So I asked for a “Venti, decaf, mocha— uh, non-fat. Non-fat mocha— That’s a real thing, isn’t it? Oh! No whip-cream, please.”

And the guy manning the register, unfazed: “Yeah. Don’t worry. Drinks get way more complicated than that.”

And the girl who handed me my drink rattled off in confirmation: “Venti decaf non-fat no-whip mocha!”

And I realized that I could never work at Starbucks, because I could never say that without my tongue tying itself in knots.


P.S. Gotta love the drink in the photo above: a non-fat pumpkin-spice chai latté with whipped cream. What’s with the “non-fat… with whipped cream”? Isn’t that kind of like ordering a half-pound double bacon cheeseburger and a diet cola?

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Hey Tim, first off – great name. Second, interesting post! I think there’s actually a book out there about a guy who lost his job, wife, etc and ended up finding himself by working at starbucks. I think it’s called, “how working at starbucks saved my life” or something by gates gill.

I’d never work there personally (never been one for a structured job), but I hear they have great benefits!

PS – your middle name wouldn’t happen to be John, would it?

Hey, Tim. I definitely believe that someone could find himself working at Starbucks. [Sound of webpages flipping…] Here it is: How Starbucks Saved My Life: A Son of Privilege Learns to Live Like Everyone Else.

There’s an indie movie in my Netflix Watch-Instantly queue that has a similar plot. The Ramen Girl: “When her boyfriend leaves her high and dry in Tokyo, spoiled American tourist Abby (Brittany Murphy) finds solace in a neighborhood ramen noodle house run by a cantankerous old chef (Toshiyuki Nishida), who agrees to take her on as an apprentice cook. But will the dirty grunt work and endless criticism drive Abby away before she discovers the serene beauty in the perfect bowl of soup — and in herself?”

BTW, my first name is Jonathan. My parents thought about naming me “John,” but they thought there were already too many John’s in the family (including my Dad). But I’ve always gone by “Tim,” so that’s why the first initial.


I was kinda hoping that your first name was Jo. Wouldn’t that be funny? Then your name would be Jo King. Haha, get it? You’re joking! 🙂 Hope that made you laugh, sorry if it was a tasteless joke. 0.o
(p.s. Hope I hear from you soon!)

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