Tag Archives: coffee

Hey Mr. Starbucks!

Warning: Some people might think this is a teeny, weeny bit of a rant. Could be.

I don’t have to tell you that 2020 has been tough. So tough it’s driven this shallow gal to bake. Don’t get me wrong. I love baking even if I’m not really a baker. But how much can two people eat (you don’t have to answer that, it’s rhetorical) so, every once in a while, we venture out for our afternoon refreshment at what has become “our” cafe. We sit on the patio (of course), physically distanced but not out of earshot of our fellow coffee drinkers, and spend time watching, talking, listening and just taking some time to pretend there’s no “new normal”. The sun shines down on us and, if it doesn’t, the well placed heaters do. We’ve been doing this for quite some time now and expected to be doing it for some time longer until last week. Last week we were advised that, like many others these days, our cafe is closing. For good. But please don’t shed a tear for the owner. This is no local barista trying to make a go of things in hard times. This is Starbucks. And since it’s kind of hard for me right now to write my shallow blog, I figured I had nothing to lose by voicing my concern to the rather large corporation who would like us to believe they have our best interests at heart. I’m sharing this with you mostly so I can share it with them too


Hey Mr. Starbucks. Remember me? I’m the one who wrote you a while back about the not so great renovation you did at our local cafe. That’s right. The one where you removed all of the comfy chairs, replacing them with rock hard subway seats, I suppose to remind us that while you don’t mind if we sit for a bit we really should be thinking about where we need to be next. It’s the same one where you removed almost all of the tables that seat more than two people because, and I can only surmise, who needs more than one friend? Oh yeah. Just in case we decided it might be nice to wile away an hour or so in the sun on that wrap around patio you have, you managed to take away many of the tables and chairs out there in the fresh air too. You remember that, don’t ya? 

To tell you the truth, it worked out ok, mostly because all of us “regulars” managed to find other places to enjoy a cup o’ joe. Some with you, some without. Me and my guy? Well lucky for us we found another one of your cafes to frequent. And even luckier, at this one the sun shines down even brighter during our afternoon repasts and we have been able to make a slew of new “Starbucks’s friends”. You know what those are, right? The people we meet and chat with each afternoon, even though we don’t know their name. The new place has become our place. Which, I understand from your mission statement, is what you folks are all about.  You know. “Human connection”. “Enjoyment at the speed of life”. “Always full of humanity”.  “A break from the world outside”.  Your words, not mine. So I have to ask. What the heck are you thinking?

Before I go on, there’s something you should know. I don’t write a lot of letters these days so a second one to you is kind of a big deal for me. But here you go again. Messing around with a good thing. So what choice do I have? Yes, I know I’m a shallow person and this might not seem like that big of a deal to other people.  And I know there are bigger things to worry about right now. Like everyone else, I’m more than a tad worried that the new guy (or perhaps I should say the old guy) won’t be able to pull this one out of the hat and, even if he does, the old old guy will kick and scream his way to an undeserved victory. With the help of his rather unsavoury cadre of friends. I worry too about how the world has been impacted by the pandemic. How, even when this whole thing is over (it will be over, right?) things will never be the same. Or worse perhaps, they will be. And for all those who have lost loved ones, lost jobs, lost homes, and perhaps hope, I worry about how they will ever be able to put their lives back together. But just because there are big things to worry about doesn’t mean the little things aren’t important too. So come on man!, (to quote the new old guy) Why on earth would you pick this of all times to close down our very busy, very robust and very important shelter from the storm? 

Now I get it. This particular cafe of yours hasn’t had a facelift for some time. Some would say it’s even a little long in the tooth. The chairs are worn, tables are slightly wobbly and the floor (if you don’t mind my saying so) could use a refresh. But none of that really matters to any of us. Because this place has become exactly what you had hoped it would be. A place to connect, to gain a sense of belonging, to share a laugh, greet old friends and meet new ones. It is, as you suggest, a haven from the worries outside. Not to mention a good neighbour. Because every time we visit we spend a little time and money at the surrounding, mostly locally owned shops. A pound of butter here, a little red fife flour there. It all adds up and makes life better for everyone. So here are my questions for you. Where do you think the kindly, elderly couple, one in a wheelchair the other with a walker, will go for their afternoon outing now? What about the lovely, older ladies who meet on the patio every Tuesday at 2 pm because they live in the area and can no longer drive? Or how about our dear friend and his dog, who loves to bask in the sunshine, while the three of us solve world problems? Have you really thought this through? Have you reflected on how this will impact the community? Your community? One that you have been a part of for the past 16 years? Tell me. Have you thought about us? Because the ways things are going, we’re not going to be thinking about you for very much longer.

 

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Follow the “effing” rules! Please.

As a shallow person I don’t make a habit of telling other people what to do. Most of the time I mind my own business and let the chips fall where they may. But in case you haven’t noticed, these times are different than most. In many ways. I mean not so long ago we were all able to walk into a grocery store without waiting in line. Without putting on a mask. Without sanitizing our hands on the way in and on the way out. And I don’t know about you but I clearly remember sitting on the cafe patio, spending time chit chatting with friends while sipping a latte. At the same table. Or inviting them to my home and letting them inside when they discretely asked to use the “facilities”. At least I would if I had managed to clean before they arrived. But those times appear to be gone. At least for now. And for now, what seems to have taken the place of all that we knew, are rules. Rules that, for our own good, we need to follow.

Now none of us are strangers when it comes to rules. We grew up with them. Right from the get go. Most of us, at least most of us who are of a certain age, remember the plethora of rules we had to adhere to at school. No chewing gum in class. No running in the hall. No talking out of turn. Simple rules but ones we had no choice but to follow lest we find ourselves spending many an hour sitting under the watchful eye of a teacher who no more wanted to be in that room with us than we with them. Little did we realize that these rules were designed to assist us in becoming decent human beings. And now, as decent human beings we know there are rules we need to follow for the sake of others. That’s why we don’t drink and drive, no longer smoke in public and do our best to eat with our mouths closed, the latter being particularly important when sharing a meal with loved ones, as we so often did in the past. Some of us go so far as to adopt rules for our own good. We pay ourselves first, finish what we start and, of course, “do unto others as we would have them do unto us”. And we are better people for it. 

Let’s face it though. Not all rules are the same. Some rules, like the ones we have to decipher when doing our taxes, are complicated. Break one of those rules and you’ll hear about it for sure but, if you’re lucky, someone will likely accept your mea culpa and let you go on your way. With a small penalty of course. Some rules have more serious consequences. Like when you decide to put the metal to the pedal on a long, lonely stretch of highway thinking there’s no one else going to wherever it is you’re going. And then you discover, much to your dismay, that you have a new friend in a black and white cruiser who has decided this a good time to get better acquainted. In this case you can say all the sorries you want but that cute little red number you love so much will be sitting in your new friend’s garage and you’ll be walking to work for the next little while. And some rules are ok to break every once in a while. I mean who didn’t sneak into the house hours after curfew, confident that the ‘rents, sleeping like logs, would be none the wiser? Trust me. They weren’t sleeping. They knew. But since you were home safe and sound, and they could now get some much deserved shut eye, they let you off the hook. Every once in a while. 

Then there are some rules that are so simple, so easy to follow, that it’s hard to understand why anyone would decide to break them. And yet, they do. So now that things are opened up just a tad, me and my guy have taken to sitting outside at our local cafe (I’m quite sure I don’t have to tell you which one) for our afternoon coffee. Not everyday, but once in a while. Here’s the thing. Because we still exist within our “new normal” a few rules have been put in place at the cafe. Nothing onerous. Like this. There is now a door to go into the cafe and a door to come out. And they are not the same. One set of doors is around the corner from the other. To make matters simple, a sign has been posted on the now “exit only” door to clearly indicate that it is, in fact, the exit. To clarify, there’s an arrow pointing to the door you are supposed to use to enter the cafe. And in case you can’t tell where the arrow is pointing there are actual words that explain the entrance is around the corner. Off the patio. It’s not hard. Yet, as I watched with some dismay, two out of three people entered through the exit. Some read the sign and clearly decided to ignore the message. Some did not read the sign at all, I suppose thinking the message was not meant for them. While others read the sign, thought about it for a moment and for some unknown reason, made the determination that the rule did not apply to them. Perhaps the extra 30 feet was too far to go.

Okay. I get it. Old habits die hard. But this one, very simple rule has been put in place to keep everyone safe. You. Me. Your kids. The people who work at the cafe. You know. The ones who are forced to wear masks all day long so we can all continue to satisfy our habit. The woman who dutifully walked around to the new entrance each and every time she needed to enter the cafe only to end up face to face with someone who chose to enter through the exit. Without a mask. So while I hardly ever tell people what to do, and I never swear, I’ll say this just once. If you do nothing else. Do this. Follow the “effing” rule. Please. And all the others that have been put in place to keep us safe. Honestly. It’s not that complicated. Not that hard. Because unlike your parents, this virus won’t be letting any of us off the hook.

An aside: I know none of my readers would do this but feel free to share with someone you know who might. 

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Remember When

I’m not really the nostalgic type. While I am never one to speak for all, I’m thinking most shallow people are with me on this. At times I think the desire to recreate the past happens when we’re not so happy with the present. At other times I simply can’t remember what it is I’m supposed to be nostalgic about. Whatever, it seems to me that living in the here and now, not in the past or in the future, is best. So it was with some surprise to myself and others that I decided to go on the hunt for a manual (yeah, there wasn’t always a plug) typewriter. As expected, it wasn’t long before someone asked me “Why? Why would you want a manual typewriter?” To which I provided what seemed to me to be the most logical response, “because I want to write using a typewriter”. Which is partly true. I mean the idea of taking the time to tap hard on each key and having no easy way to correct my mistakes has an odd appeal to me. Possibly it could make me a more deliberate and mindful writer. I’d have to think carefully about each and every word, how to properly structure my sentences into paragraphs, paragraphs into stories. I’d have to learn how to spell again. The other part is I have this handcrafted pine desk crying out for me to put something on it and I thought an old typewriter could be just that thing. More decor than function really. Regardless, this little journey of mine into the past got me thinking about how things have changed even over the relatively short time (come on…in the scheme of things) I have been living on this earth. So as I am wont to do in this cases, I will share some of these thoughts with you.

Remember when a phone was something you only had in your house? If it rang and you were home you normally picked it up as there was no way of knowing who was on the other end. If it happened that you were having one of your daily chit chats with your friend from down the street, catching up on all the comings and goings of that neighbour you were pretty sure, but not entirely confident, was having a fling with the grade 4 teacher, (it’s possible there was just some tutoring going on) your caller would get a busy signal (you can play it here if you don’t know) and be left to redial over and over again until their fingers got tired and the incessant sound of the rotary dial made the whole endeavour seem a little too onerous . And if you weren’t home at all?  Well if a phone rings when no one is home does it really make a sound? Now, short of putting your phone on “do not disturb” which no one really understands, there’s simply no escaping it. It’s with us everywhere and all of the time. For most of us hearing that catchy little jingle we have chosen triggers an immediate response. Like Pavlov and his dog. We text, we talk, we FaceTime, and we pretty much know exactly when that grade 4 teacher comes and goes.

Remember when a coffee shop was a place you could stop off on your way to work to grab a cuppa joe for a quarter? Pretty much always it was better than the sludge they percolated in the coffee room. Sure, sometimes you would linger for a moment to hear what Sam the owner, who knew everyone’s business and was more than happy to share theirs with you and yours with them, had to say.  But unless you were under five and could be entertained by continuously spinning on those metal stools that someone somewhere decided would be a viable alternative to a chair, it was a pretty uncomfortable place to spend your time. Now coffee shops are a destination. A retreat even. You go, you sit, you read, you meet, you greet, you make new friends, lose old ones and, of course, you spend inordinate amounts of money on drinks that bear only a faint resemblance to the roasted beans from which they came.

Speaking of friends, remember when they were people you actually knew? And liked. There was a time when making friends wasn’t so easy. First you had to identify people who were somewhat like-minded and with whom you had something in common. Like a shared interest. Or work. Maybe a hobby or two. Then you had to actually meet them. In person. Once that happened you would spend some weeks or months getting to know each other and somewhere down the line you would realize you had made a new friend. If you were really lucky you might find a few more people that you could call friends. Now I have 82 friends on Facebook (a paltry number by most standards) and I don’t even know where some of them came from not to mention how they have come to know me. One thing I do know for sure. They must really like me because they all seem to remember my birthday.

And we couldn’t leave this trip down memory lane without remembering when no one, and I mean no one, spoke openly about marijuana. Not that it wasn’t around. But if it was around you sure as heck didn’t want anyone to know. Apparently, (well this is just hearsay) to get some you had to know a guy who knew a guy and your guy had to be pretty sure that guy wasn’t from Precinct 52. And from what I understand, there were no choices. You got what pot you got. Unlike today where you can meander down to your corner weed boutique and find a litany of choices with enticing monikers like Moon, Forest Rain and Ocean View. Not sure if the names reflect the effect but if they do, might I suggest you stay away from something called Shark Shock

Finally remember when Barack Obama was President? I do and lately I have found myself pining a little for that time. So at the risk of sounding just a tad nostalgic, I would like to pose one question. Does anyone happen to know anyone that has access to a time machine?

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The Cat’s Not Dead, Yet

To work or not to work. It may not be “the” question but it is a question nonetheless. And it’s one I’ve been pondering for some time now. As many of you know, I retired (apparently fake news) going on two and a half years ago. It’s true. I got the gifts and the accolades from my colleagues, which included a very public declaration of my aversion to hugging. Timely I’d say on that particularly day. I even gave a “poem speech” as I am apt to do on these type of occasions. So you would think I would have packed my bags, bid a fond adieu and rode off into the sunset. You would think. But, again as many of you know, I took a day off (actually two) and headed back to my desk, albeit in a rather distant location,where I have remained ever since. Because apparently it’s what I love to do. Work. But “the time has come to talk of other things, like shoes and ships and sealing wax” (Thanks LC). Well maybe not that. Ok, shoes. But at the very least one must talk about what to do when stepping away from the almost too familiar daily grind.

As I am wont to do at these times of indecision, I called a good ol’ friend and headed to my neighborhood watering hole (ok, you know where I went) to shoot the breeze and have someone else figure this out for me. It’s the least they can do, don’t you think? I mean I’ve pretty much worked out my life for myself to this point. I think it’s about time that someone else stepped up to the plate and took a swing at the bat. Why let fate take its course when you can plant the blame firmly on someone else? Sure. It might cost you a cuppa coffee or two but if that’s what it takes to absolve yourself of all future responsibility for the decisions you make, it’s money well spent in my book. Just think of it as an investment in your future. And so, there we sat under the blazing sun in the eternally blue skies of Alberta, talking about all things retirement.

The thing I love about retired people is how they manage to put a positive spin on just about anything. Talk to them about money. Let’s face it. More than likely, when you retire you will be living on a few less shekels than what you’ve become accustomed. I know. There are the pensions the government gives out in order to leave enough cat food on the shelves for the cats. And then there’s the dollars you have been saving for nigh on 40 years that you can now start to pry out of that wallet of yours. Nonetheless, you are still likely to come up a little bit short. But ask a retired person about living on less and, dimes to dollars, they’re going to tell you that they don’t even notice the difference. First they’ll rattle on about all of the seniors discounts that are now at your disposal. So what if you can only go to the grocery store on the first Tuesday of every month and the lines will literally be out the door? You’re retired! What else did you have to do? Then there’s those early bird specials at the local diner which are perfect, now that you will want to be home for the 6:00 news anyway. Of course clothes are no longer an issue since you can pretty much wear the same jeans and T for most everything. Afterall, who’s looking at you? And if you decide you need a new frock, just head down to the nearest Bay store, on a Tuesday of course.. At the end of this diatribe you’re absolutely convinced that, not only will you be able to avail yourself of all of the necessities of life, but should Bill Gates come knocking at your door you’ll welcome him with open arms and let him know you’ve managed to reserve a suite for he and his family at the Four Season’s. Gratis.

As important as money might be however, that’s not what you’re really worried about. You really want to know more about what’s going to get you out of bed each day. How are you going to pass all of that time now that you don’t have a whack of emails to go through, people to see, places to go. And here again they’ll pontificate on the wonder that is retirement. Somehow, and apparently this happens each and every day, you get up in the morning and before you know it, the day is done. They`re not even sure where the time goes but somehow between reading the morning paper and watching Peter Mansbridge  end the day with the nightly news (it`s a Canadian thing), time just flies by. Asking for more specifics reaps some rather vague chatter about taking walks, meeting friends for coffee, getting through the stack of books that’s managed to accumulate over dozens of years, the gratifying feeling that one gets from volunteering once a week and that continuing education photography course they should have, would have taken years ago if only they had found the time. This will all end with the now very much overused and perhaps even, somewhat trite “I don’t know how I ever had time to work” followed by what can only be described as a long sigh of gratitude that those days of tedium are over and done with.

Of course, the conversation can’t come to an end without some talk about travel. It seems to me that for most, this is really what retirement is all about. Once you’ve wrapped up the daily 9 – 5 you are apparently now free to travel the world. There are places to go, people to see.  And so it was that I sat and listened to my friend wax eloquently about the exotic destinations he’s visited, the wonderful food and wine he consumed, and the beaches he has relaxed on, with nothing better to do than sip Margaritas and watch the evening sun slip through the sky. Who could ask for anything more? So I was not surprised that when he stopped to take a well deserved breath, he noticed the look of dismay on my face. The conversation that followed went something like this:

My Friend: “What?” he said. “Have I not convinced you that this will be the best time of your life?”
Me: “Don’t get me wrong. This all sounds great.
My Friend: “What is it then? What’s the problem?”
Me: As enticing as the walking and the discounts, the coffee and Peter might be, I’m really most interested in the travelling. But, I’m afraid I’m not going to be able to do that.”
My Friend: Why not? You’re still young! You have the time, the money and the energy. What’s going to stop you now?”
Me. “Well, it’s none of those things. It’s just that the cat’s not dead yet.”

I don’t know. Maybe I better just keep working.

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I Need a Plan

I’ve never been much of a planner. I’m guessing I don’t have to tell you that. After all, you’ve been reading about the life of a shallow person for many, many years now and, as such, I’m pretty sure you have some idea of how this little brain of mine works. What you may find a tad ironic is that I spent a good deal of my working life as a career planning counselor helping others figure out what they wanted to do when they grew up. But I suppose it’s not that unusual. You can liken it to the carpenter who never has time to build her own deck. Or fix the hole in the wall. Or finish the doghouse she promised to her pooch when she picked him up from his foster home. You get my drift. There are things you can do well for others that you never do for yourself. And for me, planning my life was one of those things.

It’s not that I don’t plan anything. Oh contraire! There are a plethora of things that I plan for. Like vacations. Anyone who knows me well knows that I’m really good at planning vacations. There’s never anything spontaneous when I hit the road. By the time I’m done with that planning  I’ll know exactly where I’ll rest my head each and every night. Not only that. I’ll be able to tell you my estimated time of arrival, give or take a minute or two depending on traffic and road conditions along the way. I’ll have gotten the best possible price on the best possible hotel in the vicinity and likely know where I’ll be satiating my hunger that evening. The last thing I want is to end up sleeping in my car on the side of the Trans Canada highway somewhere between Princeton and Vancouver, in the pouring rain, because there are no vacancies due to an obscure peach (or other kind of fruit) festival being held, of all the silly times, on a long week-end in August. I mean who wants that to happen…again. So I plan my vacations.

To tell you the truth, I’m not too shabby on the financial front either. Not that it has made me rich beyond my wildest dreams. But I’m doing all right. Sure I’ve made some mistakes but nothing that has proved to be catastrophic. As it is, I have a lovely roof over my head, food on the table, jeans in my closet and enough left over at the end of the month to take one of those well planned road trips. All of which I am truly grateful for.  And while there may have been some luck involved, for the most part, it was planning that made it happen. Which probably leaves you wondering, why all the fuss and bother about not being a planner? Because on the surface it would appear that everything is hunky-dory. The important stuff has been worked out and as to the rest, well maybe I should just let the chips fall where they may. Of course, you’d be right. Except for one thing. You see, in the very next little while I will be retiring from my current job. And if I have to be honest with you (as I always am) that’s something I really haven’t planned for.

Don’t get me wrong. Like most, I’m looking forward to this new stage of my life. It’s not that I haven’t enjoyed working. The truth is, I’ve always loved my jobs and the people I’ve had the privilege to work with. At least most of them. Which could be the reason I face this next adventure (as some would have me call it) with more than a little trepidation. You see, I’ve been racking my brain as to what I am going to do with all of the excess time I will find myself in the midst of. Yes, I know. Friends of mine who are retired tell me they are busier now than they ever were when they were working. Over and over I hear them exclaim “I don’t know how I ever had time for my job!” I can tell you how. They paid you to be there, so you were there.

The truth is, I have had no shortage of suggestions made to me. There’s volunteer work to be done (isn’t that just a job you don’t get paid for?), lunches to be had, books to be read, places to go, dishes to be washed. I get it. There’s lots to do when you retire. The question is, exactly what is it that I will do? I suppose I could say I will spend more time meeting my friends at  the local Starbucks but that just doesn’t seem to cut it. Not that I don’t want to see my friends, or spend my excess cash drinking fancy coffees. The thing about going for coffee is that it only works when you are taking a break from “something”, not from “nothing”. Some people have suggested that my new found freedom will provide me with much more time to spend writing this blog. I’m guessing they are mostly people who don’t read it.

So there you have it. Even for a shallow gal, the prospect of an uncertain future seems somewhat daunting. Sure. Over the next little while I figure something will come up that I can latch on to. I’ll take a class or two and see what happens. Do some sightseeing around this Island of ours. Reconnect with friends I haven’t seen for a while. But in the meantime, if anyone happens to know the name of a good career planning counselor, this would be a great time to pass that on to me.

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