A mighty big hill of beans

 I, for one, will saunter into slumberland tonight and sleep ever so soundly, like many ofmy students are apt to do during one of my riveting lessons on essential versus nonessential present participial phrases.

On what or whom should praise be showered, you inquire, for this gift, this magnanimous ticket into the Super Bowl of snoozing?  Starbucks reopened today, “pledging faultless coffee,” after closing most of its U.S. stores yesterday for three hours to retrain its employees. The promise posted in stores:“Your drink should be perfect, every time. If not, let us know and we’ll make it right.”  

Can I hear an Alleluia? Are you doing the happy dance now that you’ve been relieved of the burden of lousy lattes, feeble frappucchinos, and meager macchiatos? Well, CEO Howard Schultz hopes so. He closed about 7,000 U.S. stores to train 135,000 baristas. Frankly, considering a venti-almost-anything-with-a-pedigree costs close to what I pay for a pound of Community Coffee, I’d say it ought to be darn near perfect.  Not that Mr. Schultz asked me, mind you.    

 But really, considering the original Starbucks [extra credit if you know the origin of the name without using Google!]opened in 1971, the brain child of an English teacher, a history teacher, and a writer, I’m appalled at the language liberties of this company. Can you say, “misnomer”? A “tall” in Starbucks land is short. A “grande”? Not so much. It’s medium. And a “venti”? Well, it’s defined as the Roman gods of the winds or a network storage system that permanently stores data blocks. Oh, it can also mean “twenty” in Italian. All three seem totally unrelated. Unless those Roman gods are blowing smoke.

Raise your hand when you finally figured out that a barista was not a cute chick who hung around bars in the French Quarter. And if you have any doubt baristas are serious, check out their magazine here. When there’s a website elucidating the eight-step process of ordering coffee, baristas need Graduate School.  My first few trips alone into a Starbucks were nightmares. I’d frantically call my daughters (whichever one answered first, I’m sure, used the name of the other in vain), “Quick, I’m only three people away from the cashier. What do I drink?” What humiliation is heaped upon those who lack uber ordering savvy and have to follow the person with the double tall nonfat sugar-free flat latte.

According to the latest Starbucks Company Factsheet, there are 7,087 company stores, 4,081 licensed stores, and 43 international stores. I can only wonder what Herman Melville’s thinking.


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