By Tim Hayes

Fair warning!  Feeling a little cranky, gang, so here’s my question.  It’s a simple question, I believe, borne of years spent in silent frustration.

Would it kill them to put more tables and chairs in Starbucks?

Every time I’m in one of those chic, trendy coffeehouses to meet a client or friend, as I wait in line to order my “Grande black iced tea with two Splendas,” I’m constantly scanning the place, trying to spot an available table to grab once my order is up.

[Blog Intermission: Doesn’t “grande” translate into grand?  Big?  Impressive?  If so, then we all are being supremely ripped off.  Just sayin’.]

As the “barista” constructs my drink (who knew iced tea was so complicated?), I join my fellow “guests” in an unspoken yet undeniable game of mental jujitsu, boring holes into the craniums of seated lethargic lollygaggers with a stare, as if to ship a bulletin via ESP stating, “Okay, Skippy.  Time to close up the laptop and get some sun.  You’re looking a little pale, and I need that seat, so beat it.”

This strategy has never been known to work, by the way, but we all do it anyway.  Come on, admit it.

When a Starbucks Squatter finally does get up and ship out, my first impulse is to vault over the napkin-and-sugar station, knock over anybody foolish enough to get in the way, and grab that precious 16-square-feet of real estate.  But really, people.  This is Starbucks.  And there are rules about such things here, don’t you know.

The level of pretense in a Starbucks has a way of forcing people to behave in unnaturally and unintuitively cool ways.  Nobody rocks the boat in Starbucks.  We’re just here to sip our soy chai/Tall/fru-fru/la-dee-freakin-da/this-costs-as-much-as-a gallon-of-gas cappuccino, plan our next stop to Whole Foods for an all-organic range-free dinner with our friends the professors from the university, before topping off the Prius on the way home while listening to our Sting or Melissa Etheridge CDs.

I’d love, just once, to see some loud mouth barrel in there, give the cashier a hard time at maximum volume about the silly terminology for the drinks, and demand a hot dog and a grilled cheese.  And then light up a cigarette.  They’d have a collective stroke behind the steamer.

As a writer, I’m always looking for metaphors.  Colorful ways to convey information and ideas that haven’t been used or overused.  Starbucks may well be one of those interesting metaphors.  Try these on for size.

1) Life isn’t fair.  So, it’s difficult to find a seat in Starbucks.

2) Life is a series of compromises.  So, to get what you want in Starbucks, you need to use their stupid names for things.

3) Life means adapting sometimes.  So, you go along with the imposed pretentiousness to conduct your business, then climb back in the used car with the not-so-great mileage and return to the real world.  With maybe a quick stop at the McDonald’s drive-thru on the way for good measure.

Does Starbucks imitate life?  Oh, I don’t know.  Told you I was feeling a little cranky.  I just want to find a friggin’ seat in the place, and I wish something I’m forced to call “Grande” didn’t have so much damn ice in it and lasted more than five sips.  You’re a reasonable person.  I put it to you – is that really too much to ask? 

Thanks for letting me vent.  Or, Venti.  Whatever.

Copyright 2012 Tim Hayes Consulting