Starbucks is Pretentious

I am at a Starbucks, desperately trying to get caught up on grading and planning but fighting against ennui and a cloudy mind. After tossing my trash from an earlier coffee treat I walk up to the counter and wait for the apathetic barista to acknowledge me. She does so, clearly put out by either being at work, the last rush of customers, or me interrupting her current task; I can’t be sure which. I smile polietly and place my order.

“Venti Earl Grey Latte, please.”


She’s more questioning than dismissive, so I enunciate a bit more thinking that perhaps in my hours of quiet work here I have developed a lazy mouth, “Venti Earl Grey Latte, please.”

She taps a button on her headset and says something to her fellow baristas about how the customer wants an Earl Grey Latte and do they have that? I smile and force myself to soften the light in my eyes that I can feel is turning dark with aggitation. Another barista walks over, taps the screen, doesn’t even look up at me and says, “Is that the London Fog you want?”
“I’m sorry, I’m not familiar with that – is that what an Earl Grey Latte is called now?” I notice for the first time since arriving that this location does not have a menu up at all, save for some iced drinks – the rest of the boards are chalk covered in coffee themed drawings.

The barista rolls his eyes slightly, cocks his head and finally makes eye contact with me to say, “It’s Teavana. Earl Grey, steamed milk, and vanilla – is that what you want?”

I’m both amused and taken aback by the baritas’s attitude. A waterfall of thought cascades through my mind in an instant:

  1. Bitch, I was in love with Teavana before you even knew what an Earl Grey Creme was.
  2. Damn, you must be having a really bad day, I’m sorry about that.
  3. Dude, why the fuck was it so hard to just give me an Earl Grey Latte in the first place? It’s tea + milk. It’s among the easiest of orders. I didn’t realize this was going to be such a production.
  4. Patrick Stewart’s voice commanding the computer of the U.S.S. Enterprise, “Tea. Earl Grey. Hot.”

Instead, I take a small breath and reply, “Yes, that sounds lovely, thank you.” I smile again, but both the baristas and I know this is all forced civility ingrained into us for the survival of humanity.

I go back to my seat and wait for my drink to be called (no one asked for my name). When it is, a third barista who was not a party to the earlier antics at the cash register says crisply, “London Fog!” As I walk back to my seat with my drink I long for the impersonal precision of the Star Trek computer and Majel Barrett’s voice which wouldn’t have made me feel like such an imposition for wanting some tea with freaking milk in it.

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