Thursday, June 22, 2006

Shinin' Star

We road tripped up to The Great Northwest last week. It was all fine and dandy until my first caffeine-deprived headache of the journey. I never thought I'd say this, but: Thank God for Starbucks Coffee.

Normally I try to keep my distance from Starbucks. Not that the coffee isn't good, it's because they're a little like Wal-Mart in their blanketing the block mentality. But the problem with being nowhere near a major city is that the coffee is almost guaranteed to taste like swill. You can tell it's swill when you're:

a. In a hotel and the coffee carafe displays the sign "coffee".
b. Standing there with a styrofoam cup in your hand and considering using the non-dairy creamer packets in front of you.

So Starbucks is the old standby. You're assured of at least the same non-swill because it's a chain. But as I found in Roseburg, Oregon, even Starbucks can be bad. How? I have no friggin' idea. But they can do that at Safeway in Roseburg.

I guess I haven't spent enough time working on my specialty coffee lingo, since I always order a house drip coffee. Because when I went into the Starbucks near my sister's house in Kent, Washington, I had a brain-cramp trying to figure out what those folks were ordering.

Kent, Washington is a little like... well it's not a little like anything. In fact, there isn't anything there but strip malls and houses. And trees. As we were driving into town, we saw a Kent City Center exit sign from the freeway. Lily and I looked at each other in amazement that we'd never checked it out before, so we looked from the freeway for the downtown. We saw a huge pile of dirt. We kept scanning. Nope, just a huge pile of dirt. There's Kent, Washington for ya.

Anyway, back to the Starbucks near my sister's. As I stood in line, I overheard a man ask for a vanilla double latte, sugar free with an extra shot of decaf. Even the cashier was confused. He said it again, like he says it every day in rote memorization. I stepped up to the counter and ordered my tall drip. The barista handed the man his drink and said "I didn't really know what to call it, but I guess you do." He giggled and said "The extra shot of decaf puts some of the flavor back in." I grabbed my coffee and headed toward the sugar station, and I overheard another man tell the cashier "vanilla double latte, sugar free with an extra shot of decaf." Lily assured me it must have been some frat prank. Yeah, a fraternity of 47 year old men. Thank God for Starbucks Coffee.

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