Lou Pickney's Online Commentary
June 19, 2002
"I'm just staring at the ceiling staring back at me
Just waiting for daylight to come calling on me"
-Counting Crows "Insomnia" (aka "Up All Night")
This morning I had the better part of an hour and a half to kill between the end of my shift at work and the time when I could have my picture taken for my new WTSP 10 News photo ID. See, in case a hurricane hits and we need to go to an emergency shelter, I can flash my ID and be let in. Apparently, otherwise they'd turn me away at the door. So to kill the time, I went to Starbucks.
See, Starbucks is an interesting place. It's corporate America, it's paying triple for a brand name, yet it distinctively possesses the characteristics that stereotype the typical coffee house: the non-conventional store design, the borderline artsy wall-hangings, the collection of furniture that seems more like happenstance than consultant-driven planning. Yet you know it's all an elaborate, calculated plan. Or is it? Hard to tell, in a place where liberal, non-commercial, pro environment trends meet button-down, conservative business.
Yet the business plan is brilliant, because it draws in such a wide variety. Mostly the white-collar types who can afford to drop three bones for a cup of coffee. So as I sat there observing this morning, I kept having these mixed feelings: one moment Bongo Java, the next Wall Street. As an aside for you fellas, there's no better place for chance encounters with hot, sometimes-single businesswomen than a Starbucks. Regretfully, it took them 30 seconds too long to make my grande hot chocolate, preventing me from making it to the condiment table to strike up a conversation with the gorgeous blonde who kept making eye contact with me from afar. But by the time my beverage was ready, she was out the door. Such is life.
I had this amazing realization this morning, but I'm not sure how it will translate in an explanation. Trying to verbally tell my friend Scott Massey about it back at the station was a cumbersome effort, particularly because it's a rather silly thing. But here goes.
See, the hot chocolate I had this morning was the perfect metaphor for the short-run relationship. The cup says "coffee" on the outside, and the little cardbord holder across it blocks the marking of HC for Hot Chocolate. The lid on the top has the tiniest of holes, preventing you from seeing inside, from seeing into the future. The first taste is sweet and cool -- the whipped cream on the top of the hot chocolate. Then there's the very hot, but amazingly refreshing, first taste of the hot chocolate itself. Not so fast as to scare you away, but you're drawn in by that point. And it tastes good. Very hot. But very good. As you drink, it cools off a bit, but it still tastes good. Still refreshing. But that initial super-heat is gone.
At some point, a moment that comes and goes without being truly defined, you take a sip and realize your drink is getting cold. And it tastes a bit strange by this point. What was sweet and delicious suddenly doesn't quite seem all that appealing. But you have the cup, and you've gone this far already, so you keeping drinking, out of habit if nothing else. I mean, the cup's right there. But the flavor begins to really taste bad. You stall for time, you avoid drinking for at long as you can. And finally at some point, you decide enough's enough... and you throw the cup away.
Now I'm off to work...