In between going to cathedrals I didn’t know anything about and falling asleep on park benches after refusing to adjust to the time change, my high school trip to Spain and France was a combination of bus rides and trying to find places to pee. The year was 2004, and I was a 17-year-old kid piece of shit who listened to punk music and strived to do every school project on freeing political prisoners.
One day while we were walking the streets of Toledo, Spain, our teachers (who were in way over their heads with the group of twenty-five students) told us that our last opportunity to go to the bathroom would be at a nearby Starbucks before getting on the bus and heading back to Madrid.
“Huh, I’ve never been to a Starbucks before,” I said in passing to my best friend.
“Hold on, what?” he said to me with disgust.
“Yeah, never been to one.” I thought nothing of it.
After all, we were all from a small town in Northern Michigan that not only doesn’t have a single stop light, but there is no semblance of a chain restaurant unless you go across the bay to where the Class A school is. Not only was I not a coffee drinker, but I just never saw any reason to find myself in one of the more than 21,000 Starbucks locations across the world.
“That means you can’t go in, man,” my friend explained. “You’ve made it seventeen years. You can’t go back now.”
He couldn’t have been more right. I mean, how many people in the world can say they haven’t been in one of the most popular chains there is? McDonald’s, Burger King, Taco Bell, KFC, Apple Stores, Starbucks. If someone told me they avoided any of those, I’d think they were an absolute madman. But me? I stuck with it.
Eleven years later, I still haven’t gotten close to stepping inside of one. College? Sure, I’d be in the same vicinity as the kiosks in the library, but I never folded. When I lived in San Francisco, I went to the nearby Peet’s and turned up my nose at the pawns ordering Venti and Grande Lattes. And when I moved back to Michigan? I was never faced with going in one unless I was visiting my friends in Chicago and New York.
Full disclosure, I actually take zero issue with what Starbucks does. I’m sure their coffee is better than the Folgers my mom drinks, they do a hell of a job retaining their loyal customers, and they’re even selling booze now which may be the straw that breaks the camels back in my abstinence with them. Hell, the Chairman and CEO even went to Northern Michigan University, and I’m still avoiding their storefronts like the plague.
I almost feel bad because to be honest, I take no issue with the people that actually go to Starbucks. You can post your misspelled name online all you want and I’m not going to judge you for it. It’s funny. It’s culturally relevant, and it gets you more than eleven likes because everyone identifies with you. But I’m still not going to step foot in one.
When it’s all said and done, I kind of like that I’ve avoided this cultural phenomenon. I like turning people’s heads and hearing, “What?!” when I drop that I’ve never been inside of one. I get off on people not believing me that I’ve somehow shunned them for a better part of a decade. And truthfully, I like that I can call people “sell out pieces of shit” for enjoying Pumpkin Spice Lattes.
At least I haven’t sold out too, and that’s something the punk rock-listening high school me can get behind. .
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