Monday, September 27, 2010


I love lattes.

I love those caffeinated delicacies. The intermingling of cream and coffee, like two Norwegians making violent love on black satin sheets, my own softcore coffee porn. And if lattes are my porn than Starbucks is my brothel, with over 17,000 locations in 49 countries across the world, including England.

For the most part, traveling east for 6 hours has very little effect on this homogenous chain coffeehouse. One finds the same strange naked mermaid logo, the same trendy music (listening to the Shaft theme song right now...Shut your mouth), and the same nonsensical sizes (how can a tall be a small?). Oh, and if you cared, the coffee tastes pretty much the same. The only major difference I can discern between a US Starbucks and a UK Starbucks is the clutter. British 'Bucks are unbelievably dirty. I know what you are thinking, here we go again. First he complained about the washing machine, then the toilet, and now this. Allow me, however, to explain myself. I used the adverb "unbelievably" because it is just that, beyond belief. I have found London to be one of the cleanest cities I have ever visited, especially in comparison to its American compatriots. The tube is so well kept it could be Joan Crawford's closet (NO WIRE HANGERS!). This is all the more impressive given the fact that there are no trash bins ANYWHERE in the entire underground network. The streets are also well-cared for. Every day I pass my local street sweeper, a charming man, who takes great pride in maintaining his little bit of sidewalk magic. Lastly, the Brits themselves are a remarkably sharp-looking people, so well-dressed I feel as though I'm walking onto the set of a movie every time I leave my flat (which given my recent Jonathan Rhys Meyer and Ewan McGregor sightings may actually be true). So why then, are their Starbucks so woefully cluttered?

Two observations:
1) The English prefer their coffee in mugs as opposed to disposable cups. This is no doubt a "high tea" holdover, which while more charming and environmentally friendly, is also more cumbersome.
2) The English have no concept of what it means to dispose of their coffee trash, leading to tables littered with khaki stained mugs, muffin wrappers, and straws.
All this leads me to my recent outrage. Here I sit in a quaint little Starbucks, dutifully working on a small hightop table. I've come well equipped today: laptop, books, legal pad, pens. I'm ready to write. It is the early afternoon and the place is hopping, only one small, hightop table is unoccupied and predictably, it is covered in trash. An attractive (and well-dressed) older couple (60's) has just strolled in and are looking for a place to sit. They spot the disheveled table adjacent to me and think Shakespearean thoughts: To sit or not to sit, that is the question. I assume their daily constitution must have been exceptionally tiring, as they elect to make themselves at home amongst the trash. Eventually the woman begins tidying up. Her one hand sweeps away the golden crumbs, the remnants of some long forgotten stale pastry while the other scoops up the orphaned mugs. But what to do with the trash?

Outrage in 3...2...1

She puts it on my TABLE! With my defenses down, she casually slid the third party rubbish onto the ledge of my table. My poor, humble work space, a target area no larger than the size of the one that destroyed the Death Star and she bullseye-d it. Oddly enough, this isn't the first time this has happened to me while in London. A few weeks in to my stay, while sitting with friends at a pub, the same thing happened-- our table having become the place for other people's refuse. I want to give some lengthy discourse about how this behavior is political in its origins: Capitalist versus Socialist tendencies: The Coffeehouse, but I'm not sure if it would be true. The entire phenomenon is like Popeye's love for Olive Oyl -- simply inexplicable (although in truth this may not be an apt analogy as Popeye was a sailor and God knows those randy sailors will take whatever they can get).

Moral of the story:
Next time you are looking for coffee porn, bring protection.

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