The Starbucks Experiment

Friday, August 26, 2005

Ruminations from the Gallery

I'm taking a break from hours of reading in the National Gallery library to blog. oh how the tables have turned. it feels dirty to blog during work hours, but i suppose its the same difference as taking a coffee break.

having worked in an office for three full days, i now feel v. sorry for the people who come into Starbucks on their coffee breaks, because in just a few minutes they have to go back to work. the contrast couldn't be sharper. Starbucks is all noise, all action. the temperature fluctuates wildly if you're steaming milk or opening the dishwasher. there's always someone new to see and talk to. but in the office the people don't change and neither does your small talk. the air is always the same frigidly climate-controlled temperature. and no matter what you're doing, all you're doing is sitting around.

it's not that i'm bored exactly. some of what i read is v. interesting. the project has hooked me now, so that one part of my mind will be constantly ruminating on Andy Goldsworthy, the issues of his art and its criticism, until months after my role in the project has ended. but i guess what i'm slowly realizing here is the extreme difference between mental and physical stimulation.

on a totally different topic, this is my friend Eva's last weekend in DC. she's taking my place in the great city of New York, and it's hard for me to imagine life here without her. however, two other childhood friends, Sammy and Leah, have just arrived in DC for an indefinite stay at their parental abodes. this weekend i also have a carload of college friends from New York coming down to visit. what is this feeling? its like i'm a beach watching the renters and weekenders come and go.

okay, this has wound up being pretty morose. i think its time to go harass a librarian. spaeter.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

The early bird catches the cappuccino

When i first applied for a job at Starbucks, the manager asked if i could work mornings, and i eagerly said yes. then i realized, in that sickening wave that you realize horrible truths, that Starbucks was a coffee shop, designed above all to help people wake up . . . early, really really early. 5am early. yes, ladies and gentlemen, that's the time that i report for duty. we spend 30 minutes putting out all the pastries, making ice coffee and teas, getting the drips going (that's drip coffee, not IVs, although its the same difference to some people), stocking up the various syrups (chai, mocha, white mocha), and calibrating the espresso machines (it sounds v. technical but only requires an egg timer). then we open, and the regulars start pouring in.

That's the nice thing about my Starbucks. it's a friendly neighborhood place full of people who recognize me from the 5th grade Hawaiian show (i spend a lot of time going "oh Hi, well its good to see YOU again"). everyone orders the same thing every day, but since I'm relatively new i only have about half of them memorized. first comes Katherine (same name, different spelling), who orders a grande coffee, double cup. then Mr. Grande In A Venti Cup, who needs a caffeine fix so that he can go golfing early before work. later on, at the rush hours of 7:30 to 9:30, highlights include a very sexy man in scrubs who gets a venti coffee with four shots of espresso (and room for cream), Mr. Grande Drip and Washington Post, who always tries to make a joke about one of the headlines, and Mr. Venti Skim Caramel Macchiato, who always smiles at me even though I've forgotten to put in the vanilla syrup. we have female highlights too: Ms. Triple Venti Skim Latte with the spunky haircut, Mrs. Tall Soy Chai and Tall Soy Latte, which she occasionally orders "for here," and Miss Grande Green Tea, one bag, who for days kept ordering a tall tea in a grande cup, and then traipsing back to ask for more hot water. and then there are those regulars you dread, like the elderly gentleman who always orders two decaf tall skim lattes, or as he puts it "a tall decaffeinated skim latte, no two," which always comes to $6.99, and which he always tries to give me exact change for. I mean why just pay $7 when you could spend ten minutes counting out 99 cents, letting the line grow behind you until you realize you haven't got enough change. but the cream of the crop is the crazy bag lady who sometimes very sweetly asks for "a glass of ice, please" and sometimes screams for "a glass of ice dammit!"

The first day of my internship yesterday went v. well. my job is to find everything ever written on Andy Goldsworthy and photo-copy it, but i got to start yesterday by trying to organize the photo-copies my curator-boss already did have. i also got a tour of the library, and folks, we ain't in Kansas anymore. at the National Gallery when a curator is starting a new project, standard procedure is for one of the librarians to create a complete bibliography for you. does anyone else appreciate the unbelievable glory of starting a paper with the bibliography already done?! they have someone whose entire job is to go to and from the library of congress, and if the book you want isn't at the LC and you're not sure where it might be, you can just ask them to figure it out.

I'm up a 5am again tomorrow for my next performance as "Masta Barista," the Starbucks partner with attitude. after that its back to the Gallery.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

My First Blog!

I have been inspired by Adithi (whose blog template i am shamelessly stealing) to join the blog-movement. also, i have been encouraged by Karin to share my Starbucks secrets online, hence the title. I have been working at Starbucks all summer, and i'm going to continue working there part-time even though i'm starting a new and v. exciting internship at the National Gallery of Art--tomorrow--since sadly my internship is unpaid. I just finished a horrible shift at sbux. I was closing, which means cleaning cleaning cleaning, and the mid-shift girl never showed up, so i had to not only make all the drinks but also restock, make frappucino mix, whip cream, and do a fuck load of dishes. so basically i was the scullery maid. but i still managed to have everything clean by 7:08 (as opposed to 7:45, the "official" go-home time), because i am so awesome :-)

enough of this bull shit you are probably thinking. where are the starbucks secrets? well, did you know, for example, that venti drinks do not contain any more espresso that grande drinks, only more milk (both sizes come with two shots)? did you know that sbux does not actually stock 1% and 2% milk? when someone asks for 2% we just mix whole and skim. and when they ask for 1% we add a bit more skim, but this is hardly an exact science, and i think customers would be better served to just make up their minds as to whether they want fat or not. you have probably realized that they charge more for soy milk, which customers justifiably complain about. why is it that they charge extra for soy and organic milk but not for whip cream? the whip cream is far more labor intensive.

my post-shift exhaustion is kicking in and i can't think of any other secrets to spill, but maybe this will keep my one-and-a-half readers in state of suspense.

as i mentioned i'm starting my internship at the National Gallery tomorrow. I have "an orientation to the Gallery security system with the Protection Services Department" and an orientation to the volunteer internship program. I won't even reveal what i'll be working on, since i might find out during my orientation tomorrow that such information is classified. oh, i love the federal government.