Department of English

Spring 2008 Edition

"My Siren Song: Starbucks"

Amanda Crittenden
Expressive 2010 2nd Place
Professor: Dr. Robin Callande

It was an ice-blanketed, painfully frigid Monday. Snow was jam-packed into every inch of earth possible, surrounding stop signs and blocking driveways. I’d just finished my day helping ridiculously rich customers decide which set of cooking pans to buy or perhaps which set of towels from a seemingly identical display of dozens. After scraping off what I deemed a sufficient amount of snow, I climbed into my Toyota Corolla and drove through the streets until I saw the beacon in the snowstorm. There it was – the cure to my mundane Monday. No, it wasn’t a pair of Lacroix black-jeweled stiletto heels. No, it wasn’t even a black Prada purse. It definitely wasn’t a Vera Wang designer dress. It was the happy green sign of Starbucks and the wonders that it held inside, mainly the Grande Vanilla Bean Crème Frappuccino with whip. It didn’t matter that it was 10 below because I was at Starbucks. The outside world is a dull memory when in the presence of comfortable couches, a sweet-sounding menu, and baristas who always seem to leave me with a giddy sense of delight. The siren song of the majority of the female world is supposedly shoes, but mine is the sweet aroma of Starbucks.

As do many Generation Y obsessions, my addiction to Starbucks began with an introduction from a few of my friends. Hannah and Emilee were already hooked on their own Starbucks siren songs and wanted me to enjoy life more fully as well. Alas, they recommended the vanilla bean. (Most Starbucks regulars shorten their drink names for their convenience). Four years later, it’s my cure for a mundane Monday, my celebration of a fantastic Friday, or the pick-me-up on a lackadaisical Tuesday.

Since Starbucks always seems to brighten my day, I have added “work at Starbucks” to my long list of random life goals. Perhaps I subconsciously believe that doing so will enhance my coolness factor. I’ve done this simply because I’ve talked to a few Starbucks baristas, and they have such great ideas about life and therefore, seem so intellectually in tune. Recently, while concocting my wonderful vanilla bean, the barista accidentally hit the whipped cream dispenser on the counter, spraying the floor with delicious goodness. Afterwards, she simply laughed and asked, “Did you see that?!” and continued to fix my delicious drink.

First and foremost, Starbucks is amazing because of its menu of delicious drinks. Bumper stickers proudly persuade folks to avoid Starbucks with phrases such as, “Friends don’t let friends go to Starbucks.” Such disdain is based on the fact that Starbucks is a corporation. One indie ideology is that independent thinkers should avoid such monopolies. However, the fact is: Starbucks makes amazing drinks. They taste great. When I purchase my corporate Vanilla Bean and sip that smooth creamy decadence with the fluffiest whip cream swirled throughout, I feel more like an independent thinker than when I down a sloppy “cup of joe” from the corner café. So I will take my business to Starbucks simply because of that fact. Or is it that simple? Are there other reasons that subconsciously influence my decision?

In a seemingly effortless fashion, Starbucks plays on the subconscious with its décor and design. Stepping into the chic coffeehouse, I almost always feel an immediate sense of calm and relief. The décor enhances de-stressification and may possibly be a factor (along with the aroma of coffee) in the instant relaxation my body experiences. With comfortable couches arranged in conversational circles, the overall design of most Starbucks coffee houses enhances interaction with strangers. While sipping exotic sounding drinks, patrons can discuss politics, films, and beliefs.

The charm of Starbucks may simply be in its use of exotic drink names. Such names include: frappuccino, macchiato, or maybe the sizes: tall, grande, venti. Just ordering makes me feel like I’m somehow more sophisticated, but in an Indie New York sort of way. Perhaps what keeps me ordering is the allure of my order taking a longer time to say than my address. For example, I could order a tall light caramel macchiato on ice with soy and no whip. This is the message of Starbucks: personally designed drinks to fit a wide array of lifestyles.

Fitting in with its gift for customizing drinks to fit personal lifestyles, Starbucks’ commercials portray a free-spirited way of life. In one, a guy named Roy wakes up and drinks a double shot Espresso and is instantly serenaded by the rock group Survivor singing a personalized theme song to him to the tune of “Eye of the Tiger.” It ends with a close-up of the drink and the words “BRING ON THE DAY.” This advertising portrays Starbucks as a means of not only getting through the day, but also having a wonderful time going to work or doing other mundane things. Since Starbucks promises a personalized theme song along with caffeine, why would anyone drink anything else?

I’ve tried other drinks and other coffee houses, but I always come back to the comfort of the Vanilla Bean Crème Frappuccino. Why? There are several reasons. It does have something to do with the corporation. I know that no matter where I go (within Starbuck’s domain) my Vanilla Bean Crème Frappuccino will always have that vanilla bean with a hint of something extra amazing. I also know that a tall costs exactly $3.01 at “my” Starbucks on the corner of World Market and Bajios in Redstone Center in Park City. The vanilla bean is the constant comfort I have in this ever-changing world. It’s not just a drink. Starbucks is not merely a coffee house. The combination is not only the cure to my terrible day but is also this: the companion to my experience in this world and the accent to life’s beautiful wonders.