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Starbucks: Where Everybody Knows Your Name

Posted: 03/08/2012 00:00

Starbucks cares about me. I know this because they've recently started asking my name when I order my coffee. Yes, there's something a little Kafkaesque about that sort of thing, but you can have fun with it. Try using a pseudonym that the barista is unlikely to be able to spell. This week I've plumped for "Beelzebub" and "Agamemnon".

It's also one of the few places where I can make a coffee last for a whole afternoon and not be asked to leave. This is a policy of Starbucks; it's a home from home. Sometimes I even put in my earplugs and have a nap, safe in the knowledge that the people who work there are far too spineless to ever register an objection. Just to be sure, I sleep with one hand in my jacket pocket to imply that I'm armed.

I suppose I shouldn't be redrafting my Edinburgh fringe show two days before my first preview. I've been in Edinburgh for four days now, and have been fairly permanently ensconced in one of the city's many branches of Starbucks, working away on my laptop. This is the problem with being a stand-up comedian. It's an isolating process. People often assume there's an element of glamour to the whole thing. There isn't. Unless your idea of glamour involves being on the receiving end of drunken death threats in some damp attic above a pub in Yeovil.

I suppose I shouldn't be in Starbucks at all. I suppose as a socialist I shouldn't be advocating this global capitalistic leviathan. In my defence, I'm trying to bring down the system from within. Unless all the comfortable chairs are taken, in which case the revolution can wait.

Anyway, this particular branch is in Edinburgh's New Town, the very hub of champagne socialism. Even the infants are reading The Guardian. I find kids in coffee shops annoying at the best of times, but if you get too close to these ones they start hassling you about climate change.

Why do I keep coming back here? Maybe it's the siren on their logo with the Mona Lisa smile, coaxing me like some bewitched sailor onto frappuccino-sodden rocks. Are Starbucks really trying to broaden their clientele through literary allusion? And, if so, why choose something that so clearly suggests that you're falling into a trap?

But then, why shouldn't my creative process take place in Starbucks? I heard that JK Rowling immured herself in her local café to write that thing about wizards. My show has nothing whatsoever to do with wizards, incidentally, but that's because I had a Catholic upbringing and I absolutely refuse to endorse the occult. The Pope would be livid.

Instead, I've written a show about a near-death experience I had in Suffolk. One day, whilst out walking along the River Stour, I found myself caught waist-deep in wet clay by a sea wall, with the tide coming in and not a coastguard in sight. It was genuinely terrifying. I thought I might never taste an extra-shot sugar-free hazelnut soya latte ever again. And no one should have to go through that. Not even Mugabe.

Today hasn't been my most productive. I've had to stop because three fashionably dressed youths with cut-glass accents are encroaching on my personal space. They are the very definition of banality. One of them has just actually used the phrase "OMG" in conversation. If she's going to take the Lord's name in vain she should at least have the courtesy not to abbreviate.

In my experience, three-letter acronyms almost invariably signify something unpleasant: IRA, PVC, MFI. And, of course, anyone who puts LOL in a text message should be put to death without trial.

I've made a decision. I'm going to last the whole festival without stepping foot in another Starbucks. Yes, I'll miss all those artificial flavours and artificial smiles. But my dependence on this horribly corporate, faux-domesticity has to stop. I'm getting the hell out of here.

Maybe one more skinny blueberry muffin. Just for old time's sake.

 
 
 

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