1. Shaming history. A few weeks ago when tearing down Lee and Jackson was all the rage, I posited a simple question to Facebook: Where does it stop, with Washington and Jefferson? Social media called me everything but a Nazi, but here we are these few weeks later and statues of Jefferson and Francis Scott Key are being vandalized. This tells me all I need to know (as if I didn’t know already) about who I’m dealing with. It really isn’t about statues or memorials. It’s about wanting history to comport with some whackadoodle notion that everything has to reflect modern leftist sensibilities or risk being labeled fascist. Feel free to label me whatever you’d like, but I’ll be damned if I’m going to hide from or in any way be made to feel ashamed of our history. As long as I’m drawing breath there will be at least one voice in steady opposition to sanitizing history into a bland inoffensive paste.
2. Lack of Starbucks. I like coffee and 19 days out of 20 I’m happy with the old fashioned drip variety. I usually take it will a bit of cream and sugar, but black is just as good. Today was that other one day out of twenty, though. It’s on days like today when I would pitch a screaming fit for a properly made latte. Of course there’s not one of those to be seen between the house and the office. I’m not hung up on the Starbuck trademark, but a proper coffee shop somewhere between Aberdeen and the Delaware state line feels like something that would be well received in an underserved bit of geography.
3. Late day surprises. We’ve covered this before, but it’s a perennial annoyance – the people who call you 20 minutes before the end of the day and expect some major miracle to result in them getting a fully formed plan or analysis. What you’re really going to get is a page full of the notes I made during the phone call with a supporting post it reminding me to work on that “hot” action first thing the next morning. Assuming it’s not a lifesaving or life sustaining action, you’re the dumbass who waited until the end of the day, and by 3:30 in the afternoon I’m in no humor for random jackassery.
1. Not hungry. It’s a rare accomplishment but I’ve slid through the last two days being so annoyed that I’m not even hungry. Bowl of cereal for dinner. A cookie and a giant iced tea for lunch. Copious amounts of coffee at all other points on the clock. I’m assuming that’s not one of those healthy diets people keep posting on Facebook but it is what it is.
2. Unity of command. It’s another one of those exciting weeks where I’m not entirely sure which of six people I actually work for. I know who signs my time sheet and who approves my leave requests, those being the most important functions of supervision. Identifying who exactly is supposed to assign and prioritize my work, though, remains a vague bit of prognosticating. If only we had an organizational chart that spelled out clearly who does what to whom.
3. The challenge of being topless. When you climb onto a Jeep with its top and doors removed you leave yourself open to whatever elements come. You also leave yourself exposed to the other people on the road. Cigarettes flicked out of the window of the car in front of you suddenly have a much more present danger than they did when you were buckled up in a sealed, climate controlled machine. It’s also important that the people near you can actually both see every gesture you make and hear whatever it is you’re saying (or singing along with). That’s a helpful bit to remember if you’re prone to criticizing the skills of your fellow motorists in colorful terms… although the guy stopped next to me on the bridge yesterday seemed to particularly enjoy my repeated pleas for the police to just push the mangled vehicles over the side, let the asshats responsible figure out how to fish them out of the Susquehanna, and get traffic moving again.
About six days a week I drive past a little shop on Main Street that specializes in providing whole coffee beans and tea leaves to the more discerning hot beverage enthusiasts in the surrounding area. About once a month I stop in and pick up a pound of really good beans and sample of whatever brew they’re serving up that day. It’s the kind of shop I like to think I’d own if I had any interest in being a shop owner or working with the public in any way.
One of the charming features of this shop in particular is that they’ve blown out a wall to open their space into the neighboring building that does business as part antique shop / part used book store. There’s something in the scent combination of several hundred pounds of coffee and tea mixed with old objects and aging paper that just appeals to me. For whatever reason, I enjoy it and the shop owners seem to enjoy taking my money so it’s a win-win for all involved.
Sometimes I find a few things worth adding to the shelf, other times not, but until my last visit it’s always been a happy experience either way. On my last stop for coffee and a good rummage through the shelves, a youngish human, female type, injected herself into my personal space and struck up a conversation – mostly about the shop, the books, and general pleasantries. It’s not the kind of activity I usually encourage, but she was brunette and pleasing to look at and didn’t “like” or “you know” her way through the English language. She showed me a few of the books cradled in her arms and then asked what I was reading.
Right there, you see, is where I should have read the question as a danger sign. Instead of offering up something blandly inoffensive or popular or even one of the old classics, I had to open my mouth and gush about the intriguing book I was currently reading about the 6th ship in the Royal Navy to carry the name HMS Warspite and its service from Jutland to the end of World War II. I clearly missed the part where her eyes glazed over, but the “uh, that’s… uh, nice” as she suddenly found renewed interest in the stacks was unmistakable. I can’t help but remark on the grand irony of being torpedoed because of my great love of British naval history.
So that’s the story of beans and books and possibly squandered because I wasn’t smart enough to disengage half my brain and approach with caution. Next time I’m just going to say I’m reading Harry Potter for the 3rd time and try to avoid any topic that might hint that I’m anything more than a redneck in a golf shirt. Go ahead and file that under lessons learned.
The internet (or at least Twitter) lit up briefly this morning when Starbucks announced that they are going to change the way customers earn loyalty program points. Customers were outraged that the company was changing how various “elite” status levels are reached and how much money they would have to spend before they qualified to “get something free.”
Since I moved to the sticks and don’t drive past half a dozen Starbucks locations on my daily commute maybe I feel this change a little less acutely than the average overpriced coffee drinker. Or maybe it’s just a beautifully wrapped case-in-point of everything that is wrong with America today… because customers, presumably regular customers who enjoy Starbucks products and services, are now up in arms because the company is making it just a little bit harder to get free shit.
Let that idea sit with you for a while. Starbucks, a business that exists for the purpose of making money through the sale of coffee and related ephemera, actually wants its customers to spend a little more money before getting something for nothing. I’ll even take it a step further and directly question when we as a society decided that it was our God given right to expect people and business to give their products away. Somehow we’ve managed to take a gesture of goodwill and thanks – a free cup of coffee – and twist it into some kind of entitlement.
I learned from a young age that sometimes life is tough. The world doesn’t owe you a damned thing besides the chance to work hard, scrape, and make something for and of yourself. Past that, you’re not entitled to a thin dime – or a $5 cup of coffee – from anyone else. So when you do get something for nothing, be appreciative instead of immediately taking to the internet to cry that it’s just not enough.
If you think you’re getting a raw deal from Starbucks take your business elsewhere. There are hundreds of businesses that would be happy enough to take your money. Better yet, go get yourself a nice Italian coffee machine so you can cut out the middle man and *gasp* learn to brew your very own java. You’ll save a lot more money doing that than you’ll earn back through any customer loyalty program.
1. You drink too much coffee. So you say. That’s purely a matter of opinion, but in a world where I’m not allowed to smoke, where all food should be salt-less, carbs are off limits, red meat is the devil, and cake is a hanging offense, I don’t care what your opinion about my coffee intake is. Too much joy has been sucked out of life for me to willingly give up my all-day infusion of warm, roasted, caffeine-laden goodness. Sure, maybe it would extend my life a few years… but is it a life worth living if you’re stuck drinking nothing but water and eating nothing but sprouts and granola? Feels like a decent trade off to me, so you can go ahead and stow your objections to coffee.
2. Primary Season. Every week we seem to find a few more would-be-candidates wandering onto the field of electoral combat. I know it’s primary season here in America and that’s what happens. That doesn’t mean I have to be the least bit interested in anything they’re saying at this point. I’m an educated voter and so far all I can really tell you is there’s a brain surgeon, a socialist, a guy who wants to make us use the metric system, Hillary Clinton, and a bunch of other people whistle-stopping around the country trying to scrape up enough money to stay on the road for another few weeks. There will be more of them before the field starts to winnow – then maybe I’ll start paying a bit of attention. Until then the whole conversation – the left-on-left, right-on-left, and right-on-right hypocrisy – is just too thick to warrant giving them any serious thought.
3. Rain. I spent a lot of the last three weeks complaining that the yard needed rain and was in danger of turning into my own mini-dustbowl. I was wrong. Now that the rain has come and (mostly) gone I’ve been giving myself a crash course of rainwater diversion and storm water management. Talk about things they don’t teach you in school. Well, they don’t teach them to history majors anyway. So far, my plan of attack seems to require a combination of roofers, heavy equipment operators, landscapers, air conditioning repairmen, and possibly a general contractor, soil specialist, and hydraulic engineer. All of these are skills I could probably learn myself given an unlimited amount of time, but as things stand I’m not willing to wait that long to bring good order and discipline to the free flowing surface water that finds its way into the back yard every time more than a light mist falls.
No one loves your cup of joe more than me, but really I wish you’d just stick with providing coffee and a scone without offering up a side order of social commentary. I’ve come to your establishments across the country secure in the knowledge that I could order a venti vanilla latte extra hot with a shot and have it delivered up consistently from coast to coast.
What I’m generally not looking for with my jolt of hot caffeine is a debate or discussion with the staff on same-sex marriage, or gun control, or race relations. God knows there are enough venues available where those topics can’t be escaped. I hate to think your shops are just another place to avoid now.
Look, I know coffee shops have a long history of being a hotbed of radical thought and gathering points for critical discussion of the issues of the day… but for the love of God that’s what the internet is for now. I’m begging you to just be a place I can go to get a reliable cup of coffee. If I want politics with my caffeine I can always swing by McDonald’s every morning and listen to the old men bitching and complaining.
Bread may be the staff of life, but a good cup of coffee is the foodstuff that makes life worth living. Coffee and I have had an ongoing, hot, steamy affair since I was 13. At one point or another I’ve taken it black, American style with cream and sugar, dripped, pressed, perked, or frothed, from Ethiopia, the Blue Mountains of Jamaica, Kona, or South America. I love it in all it’s many forms – except iced – that stuff is pretty off-putting. It’s the beverage that starts and ends my day. It picks me up and puts me to bed. Day in, day out, week on week, and year after year it’s perhaps the most reliable feature in a universe that is otherwise hell-bent on change. Some will argue the point, but as for me, I count the cultivation of the coffee plant as one of the great high water marks of civilization itself.
“But,” you say, “It’s just a caffeine delivery system and you’re nothing but a damned addict, Jeff.” Sure. Maybe so. But it’s one of the last legal vices any of us are allowed to have… and it’s about as close to touching the face of God that we’re likely to find in this life.
Note: This is the 4th entry in a six-part series appearing on jeffreytharp.com by request.