Current/Recent Reading List

07 August 2008

I'm Late on This, But Can't Help Pointing It Out...

Rarely will you see me frequenting a Starbucks. Wyfe, on the other hand, is much more of an enthusiast, though to her credit, she just likes the coffee, and rolls her eyes at Starbucks pretensions.
Well, we always stop at the Starbucks drive-thru at the beginning of long interstate trips back home after visiting either my parents or hers. I always dread it when I'm the one in the driver's seat, because I have to repeat the nine or ten ridiculous words it takes to communicate Wyfe's order. As for me, I just ask for a medium coffee, which I guess ends up translating as, irritatingly, a regular "Grande".

Well, now I know I have at least one fellow traveler. This is from a while ago, the June issue of The New Criterion, but can't be passed up. From the wonderful, and curmudgeonly, media critic James Bowman:

On my occasional visits to Starbucks, the ubiquitous coffee merchants, I try to refuse to use the private language the company has thoughtfully provided for the convenience of its patrons. Sometimes I forget and ask for Tall, Grande, or Venti, but usually I ask, defiantly but with some embarrassment, for small, medium, or large, because I resent being forced into a greater intimacy than I desire with the Starbucks corporate culture. I want to be a customer, not a member of the Starbucks Club who validates his membership along with his entry on the premises by speaking the Starbucks idiolect. Doubtless the marketing department in Seattle has tested it to a fare-thee-well and found that most people are not like me; most people are happy to use the special, European-sounding jargon—the Stargot, as we might call it—because it flatters them into the belief that, along with their coffee, they have purchased at a very reasonable price admission to an exclusive circle of coffee-drinkers who are socially a cut or two above those who drink from the caffeine-springs of Dunkin’ Donuts or Ma’s Diner, where they use ordinary English.
Back on the other coast but with considerably less subtlety, The Washington Post has long been engaged in a similar exercise... [there is a] never-ending radio advertising campaign for the Post which ends with that newspaper’s supremely irritating slogan: “If you don’t get it, you don’t get it.” Was there ever such a crass appeal to intellectual snobbery by an organ purporting to be an arbiter of public tastes and morals?...

... Naturally, no one wants to be outside the circle of those who “get it”—a formulation once applied mainly to jokes but now used to indicate a political group-identity which defines itself in part by stressing the stupidity of those who do not share it. To be among those who “get it” is not only to hold a certain set of views that make one reliably progressive but also, by holding it, to be a member of the progressive club—which, like the Starbucks Club, is decidedly up-market socially.

The "Stargot", indeed!


Belle said...

In these dark times, sometimes Starbucks is our "clean, well-lighted place". That said, I still feel pressured if I'm getting a "medium coffee". It's actually easier to order a non-fat, half-caf, double doppio with a shot of hazlenut. Or something like that.

School Master P said...

Yes, and "medium coffee" probably freaks out the poor coffee shleppers, er, I mean "baristas"!