Sunday, August 24, 2008

Life After S.Bucks - v.2

Growing up in Tsawwassen, the opening of S.bucks was truly a day of celebration. The Golden Calf, after years of waiting at the fence post, was being allowed in to graze on the fertile fields of the third wealthiest subdivision, in the second wealthiest city, in the seventh wealthiest country in the world. It was heralded as a coming of age story for our town - gaining front page recognition in the Delta Optimist - the newspaper that I, until the age of 13 helped spread around our fine suburb.

Having the convenience of big city coffee in our small town was akin to Pemberton all of a sudden receiving Jay Z to their sleepy town. For up until that point - in the minds of my friends - Tsawwassen was nothing more than Merit without a music festival; Britania without the mine tour. A Vancouver twist on a modern day Miami. Retired, rich and royally cranky.

Three years later, that very Starbucks served me up a new drink; a hot cup of inappropriate student - teacher relationships. I'll spare the details that would turn this blog post into a novel; and rather attempt a fly-over of what was my Grade 12 year.

Her name was Mrs._. She tended to wear outfits that while were no Janet Jackson nip hugger; they were definitely not what one thought of as business casual. A sports bra and short shorts for the summer, and a poly pro top for the colder months - Mrs _ had a style unique for a sub urban teaching professional.

But I digress. I'm not sure where the relationship began, but I suspect it was grade 10, in Hawaii on a band trip, that I was never quite sure how or why my parents funded. It was a dinner out with her and another teacher, a walk on a boardwalk and a few laughs exchanged at the expense of the tourist attractions that littered the street - the tacky t-shirt stands with inappropriate writing, and the leis provided the bulk of the conversation that evening.

It progressed to a one off interruption from History 12 to grab her coffee. "But Mrs_ , I don't know how to drive standard" ; that's alright, she said, you'll learn. And so began the routine. Every History class, an quiet knock on the door and Mrs. _ would be standing at the door wanting her Venti, No Fat, Vanilla Latte - extra hot.* I would soon be buying, no rather picking up, coffees for her and four other teachers. I say picking up, because when I walked into that Starbucks I was treated as the dutiful messenger of one much higher. Coffees for Mrs _ and her croonies were always on the house.

Driving standard was a task I quickly learnt, and quickly "forgot" when my father was teaching me later that year on our car. Once or twice I had to duck from the Vice Principle who was exiting the school as I was entering it, with a tray of drinks in the middle of a class.

This "relationship" of sorts continued; but it started to take a more "unfortunate" turn. Mrs _ became single, a lot of weight was lost, and rumours started to fly about everything from her teaching habits to ... other habits. The world of celebrity has created it's own destructing cycle. In this world, teenagers truly begin to believe their lives are as dramatic as the ones they read about, and create a reality that tries to mirror it. Unfortunately, what they don't realize is that that the world of celebrity is nothing but smoke and mirrors. Life imitating art imitating art. And no - one is really sure what the first image was.

Four or five nights prior to graduation I received a note from her daughter stating, in the form of "20 facts you didn't know" fact #18 that "she liked me since the day she met me."

The daughter, the mother, the whole thing was too much. Graduation, hands shake, hug, hug - goodbye.

I suspect after me there were a few other men or women, boys or girls who delivered the bean. Starbucks can be "just a coffee shop", but for many, it's just another expression if a need. The needs change, the expressions change, but this common denominator, this common need is pathetically universal.

Fast Forward five years - third year UBC. Sitting on Kits beach feeling the need for a frap of some sort, I walk into the Starbucks on Yew and Cornwall to see none other than Mrs. _ and her daughter, now a barista. Smile, exchange pleasantries, make plans for a future, much more distant date.

And that is that.

*ok, that's a stretch, she didn't get it extra hot

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Life After S.Bucks - v.1

I remember it pretty well I guess - as well as one can remember complete chaos. I remember it because I was wearing my lululemon yoga pants and they had this weird streak on the left shin and although I had tried washing the pants like 3 times, the streak wouldn't come out. If I scratched my thumb nail against it, I would have success, but I couldn't be bothered to do that all day.

I knew something was ary when the dark rimmed, shaved about three days ago, popped collared barista told me they had run out of soy. S.bucks out of soy? I guess, with Soy being the most advanced of the beans, if any were to jump ship - it would. And yet the whole beauty of modern management for a chain like S.bucks is that it has removed from it all possibility of human error. We laughed at Office Space's depiction of "pieces of flare", silently sinking into the realization that a lot of us, are a lot closer to the reality of channeled expression than we'd like. Customize your drink, so long as it fits in the customize your drink boxes we've made.

But I digress. S.Bucks, running out of soy is like McDonalds running out of McNuggets; it just shouldn't happen. The variables that make up management have been reduced controlled or eliminated - all so I can have my Soy based beverage every damn day.

But it did. I changed my drink order and was waiting by the lid counter, reading a pamphlet on the duetto card, humming whatever was on the S.Bucks XM Radio and before I turned around to pick up my boring, soyless drink I knew it was over.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008


Our conversations are never easy, but as I - we - get older, we are all finding that our conversations must be spoken. A need burns inside us to share with others what we are feeling. Beyond a certain age, sincerity ceases to feel pornographic. It is though the coolness that marked our youth is itself a type of retrovirus that can only leave you feeling empty. Full of holes.
The glamour of corruption disappears; the learning is no fun anymore. You don't want to waste the energy, so instead you learn tolerance, and compassion and love - and distance - and these are hard words for me to say. All of this is hard for me to say.

-Douglas Copeland "Life after God"