Greenwood Encyclopedia of African American Literature

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Repetitive Espresso Macchiato

Sinning against counter-corporatism, I do patronize Starbucks, although during the work-week I go to the (two) cafes on our wee campus.

At Starbucks, I usually order a beverage that used to be listed rather prominently on the menu in the Paleolithic Starbucks Era: espresso macchiato. I add "doppio" (not sure of my Italian spelling there) to the order, and I think the word suggests either that I'm a dope or that I want two shots of espresso or both. (That bit of drollery may have been too dry.)

For at least two years, I've been getting the sense that almost no one else orders this beverage, which is simply two shots of espresso "marked" with a dollop of foam, which is supposed to be creamy foam, I believe, but milk-foam is fine for me. I add a bit of Splenda just to take the edge off the brownish-black knife that is espresso.

Once a barista had to get out what looked to be a Top Secret Starbucks book of recipes. Another barista recently informed me that I was "the only one who ever orders this." His tone suggested neither condemnation nor admiration. He was just giving me a fact and pointing out that I was, in this fact, a doppio.

More typically, after I order the beverage (and if there are multiple baristas around), a brief consultation occurs in which the pullers of shots confirm what they think an espresso macchiato is. They mumble quietly and do not make eye-contact with me--I think they don't want to let on that a conference was required. Every so often, a barista makes the drink incorrectly and just dumps a load of hot milk in with the mud. I never complain or send it back, however. After all, folks, what we're after here is "a hot cup of coffee," more or less.

I have deduced that the bulk of Starbucks customers order drinks that I consider milkshakes--enormous jars of liquid topped with hillocks of cream, with red straws jutting out like accent-marks in Spanish. The drinks must take the better part of an hour to consume and drive the blood-sugar to record-heights. (This makes me think of Rome, and of going to an espresso bar--literally a zinc bar--and ordering a shot: If you don't toss the thing back immediately like the rest of the Italian men and leave, the barista looks at you as if you're a trespasser. The look he gives you, should you linger, suggests he's thinking, in Italian, "Are you gonna stand there and nurse that thing all day, moron?")

It is just like me to find something I like and stick with it--until it disappears. I hang on to everything from books to clothes to vehicles. (The 1969 Ford F-100 pickup featured on this blog belonged to my father, who purchased it new.) I once had a favorite pair of wool socks that I believe were handed down from one of my brothers, and I think I may have kept them for close to 20 years--until my wife executed them. I get in ruts and routines. My parents' generation sometimes referred to such behavior as "getting on a jag." I had an uncle who, as observed by my mother, would get "on a jag" that entailed eating the exact same breakfast (which his wife had to cook) every day--for a year or more. It might be a waffle and bacon, for instance.

I'm especially vulnerable to repetitive behavior that saves time and energy, and I don't like to put much thought into shopping for food or clothes, one of many reasons I tend not pay attention to advertisements or coupons. (I wish they'd put the money for that into food for the impoverished.) Who knows?--I may have been content with at least one part of Soviet society, wearing gray every day and buying the one kind of whatever that was available. I would be content with one "blazer," for instance; only my wife saves me from such repetitive, eccentric behavior and induces the proper variation. I may have gotten the clothing-part of this habit from my father, who, in summer, wore bluejeans, a "railroad" striped cotton shirt, work-boots, a hat, and suspenders every day. When the weather got colder, he would change the kind of shirt and wear a red chamois-cloth (a kind of flannel) one. He had dozens of the two kinds of shirts.

When viewing the tube, I tend to go to the news outlets, BBC America, and/or Turner Classic Movies--with an occasional check on the fundamentalist-Christian network, which for some reason fascinates me: the programming and personalities are so bad that they're good.

I will get on poetry jags and read somebody's collected poems (again)--like Housman's, a recent example.

Although I am an old dog, I don't necessarily mind being dislodged from a groove, a rut, a drill. It just doesn't occur to me, usually, to break my own routine, so usually some kind of external influence is required. One day, for instance, Starbucks may simply refuse my request for an espresso macchiato (doppio). I will have to reconsider the situation. It will take a while. I may need to interrogate the barista briefly but politely. But I will change, if need be. There is, I believe, a difference between being an old dog and a pain in the ass.
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