I’ve been incredibly busy as of late, and by ‘as of late’ – I mean the past 6 months in particular. I’ve always been a hard working guy; however, these last few months have been especially grueling.
But, all bemoaning aside, I do want to ensure that I write with some degree of relative frequency.
So, the last two paragraphs being my prefaced apology if this post is an absolute piece of shit – here goes.
I live in a coastal community. I like coffee. Good coffee.
I own a couple of Nespresso machines since I am a design fanboy but I typically purchase an overpriced bottle of (concentrated) cold-brew coffee since it’s more alkaline and it’s straight diesel as far as potency is concerned.
That’s typically my go-to, but at times I opt to get a proper cappuccino from a real barista. This is typically when I’ve pulled an all-nighter working. The other instance of when I seek a barista-made-drink is when I’m borderline depressed and NEED the 800+ calories and 80 grams of carbs in my old friend the breve iced caramel macchiato.
The name of that drink probably tells you that I go to Starbucks.
Yes, this once upon a time Seatlleite and perpetual uppity white guy gets down with the uber-gentrified corporate evil machine.
What can I say, they might not make the best damn drinks, but as I learned in some semi-legit sales training from my early 20’s as a mortgage broker, ‘starbucks is successful because they are consistent’.
That being said, I fucking hate starbucks.
So, when the day came that the mediocre coffee / sandwich shop near my house suddenly sported a new name and a fresh remodel, I was all too happy to venture in.
And I was immediately excited about the place. I knew two of the baristas as they were sisters who were former neighbors of mine and the owner was an absolute gem whom I had the chance to briefly discuss both coffee and books.
Which, speaking of books, the new owners had retained the small ‘exchange a book shelf’ that had graced the walls of the former establishment.
And speaking of the former establishment, it was a three star on yelp tourist trap.
However, this new place had me excited. And when I ordered my cappuccino and the barista had to ask the owner how to make it I figured it was no biggie.
When I tasted it and the espresso seemed burned and bitter, I figured ‘hell, I’ll throw a couple splenda in this bitch and it’ll be right as rain’.
But when I went to sweeten my cappuccino, there was a MAJOR FUCKING PROBLEM.
They had table sugar, they had cane sugar; hell – they even had green sugar (stevia) – but alas, my requisite sweetener was absent.
Truth be told, I cannot recall whether I used stevia or cane sugar. But I clearly remember that I left unsatisfied.
I remember because I desperately wanted this place to be my new spot. It had everything going for it. It was independently owned, I liked the owner, the baristas were cute, I even left with a new Simon Gladwell book. (Which I discovered was a signed copy upon arriving home).
I went back a few days later. I felt bad. I came bearing books to replenish the ‘take a book’ stock.
And I stood there. I stared at the menu. But I couldn’t do it.
I grabbed a prepackaged protein shake and sheepishly set it on the counter to pay, before making my final exit from the ALMOST perfect coffee place.
Since then, I’ve walked an extra block to Starbucks. I even take a residential street on the way back, which makes me feel funny. But, I don’t want the (almost) legit place to see what a sellout I am.
But that’s the lesson.
We are all sellouts to our essential values.
I’ve since recounted this story to friends and not one person has been surprised because everyone has been there at one time or another. It might not have been splenda, but whatever was missing was enough to be a deal-breaker.
And that’s haunted me for a couple of reasons.
A: the outcome is one I would have never predicted – and B: I think it says something about human nature.
We are all Jerry Seinfeld.
Our peers struggle to grasp the root of our dissatisfaction with the seemingly ideal, but each of us has a list of splendas in life that we simply are not willing to live without.
I’m sorry but they just didn’t have splenda.