Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Starbucks, Christians and Free Speech

Let me start this blog by saying, I love Starbucks. I know, I know, I'm a socially responsible left of Jesus liberal and I am professing my love for a corporation. To be an American who tries to put their ideals into action means you have to live with a certain amount of self hypocrisy. We all have what we politely describe as, guilty pleasures or, I know I shouldn't but I like it, habits. Civilization depends on it. I know friends who wear fur, but since they got it in a second hand store, thats OK. Some still smoke cigarettes, but its American Spirit brand, so somehow that makes it more acceptable to them.

My indulgence happens to be Starbucks. They make a good cup of coffee. More importantly, they allow me to make several minor choices at the cash register while people behind me get exasperated because I am taking my time doing so. In a world I scarcely understand anymore Starbucks gives me two things I desperately need to start my day; a sense that I can control something and caffeine.

When people tell me that supporting a corporation leaves them with a bad taste in their mouths I simply say, then your company doesn't make gingerbread lattes.

Do you know the secret to being a pretty good comic? It's not having a filter. We are trained since birth to not say what we are thinking. Lawyers make a living hiding intentions behind phrases. Poets convey meaning by coming at it sideways and anyone whose ever sat in a cubicle knows how often they have to swallow their words. I don't have a filter. It's what makes me a good comic but a lousy boyfriend. It also produces what can best be described as sit-com moments. I don't know why this stuff happens to me in Starbucks, but it happens to me there a lot. A stranger says something, other people look sheepishly at their feet because it was ignorant, hateful or just wrong, and before I realize what is happening, I’ve blurted something out that is causing some people to slap me on my back as they say, I wish I had said that, and others to look at me with undiluted hate steaming from their eyes. Partly, its just the hyper polarized, political mess of a country we all live in now. That, and as I’ve explained, I have no filter. I like to think of it as an allergic reaction to stupidity, speaking before thinking or, my favorite description, morally outraged turrets. Being in line at Starbucks can be a lot like being on Facebook, too. You interact with people who have different opinions you might not ordinarily interact with and occasionally, they poke you. I poke back.

A few months ago I was in Sacramento, CA. In line, in front of me, two guys were talking loudly. They looked like construction workers. One of them kept repeating a sentence over and over. "Can you believe it? A lazy fucking Mexican took my job!" it didn't matter that most people in the place were nervously avoiding eye contact, they kept looking around for people to agree with them. No one was. Finally, the guy whose been saying this turns to me and repeats it, "a lazy fucking Mexican took my job." I suppose he thought I should say something like, I can’t believe it!

Instead, I said "How good could you have been at your job if a lazy guy could replace you?"

That earned me my first round of applause at a Starbucks at a free coffee from the Hispanic guy working the cash register after they kicked out the two guys.

Score one for me.

Neutralizing ignorant bullies with comedic logic is something I have a black belt in.

Today, this happened to me in line at a Starbucks. Its Sunday before noon so the line is long. There is a large group of people waiting for their drinks as the Christmas music blares down on us all. In front of me are two well dressed woman in their early fifties. Leather boots, expensive hand bags and huge sun glasses on, they talk loudly to themselves. They have just come from church. They are talking about the sermon, Newt Gingrich and who Jesus would endorse if he could.

I am biting my tongue.

It's only when they get to the register that I notice the girl behind it is Muslim. I am presuming this because she is wearing a scarf on her head and she peers out at the two woman with large brown eyes and a dark face. One of the woman orders a drink and then says, " ...can I also get one of those low fat turkey bacon things?" The girl informs her they are out. "Are you just saying that because you don't want to touch bacon?"

Accept for the song, Here Comes Santa Clause, the room goes quiet. The woman laughs one of those socially awkward laughs and says, "I was just joking, dear."

Sure she was.

I haven't had my coffee yet and I am just not going to get into it with two gold plated crucifix wearing cougars. And then, like so many other times, I hear something that causes me to speak before thinking. The two of them are speaking to each other again and I hear "...the republican party IS the party of Jesus."

I can’t help it anymore.

"Sure, the republican party is the party of Jesus if Jesus was a fat white CEO of a company taking government contracts to build bombs preaching about family values with his third wife standing next to him."

Incredulous and stammering, before the woman responds, the Muslim girl leans on the counter and says, "your coffee is free today, sir."

Score another one for me.

Now comes the aftermath. The drama of petty people whose egos have been dented publicly is practically our national entertainment these days. The women demanded to speak to the manager. Other customers rise to my defense. Others shake their heads at me. The woman, composed now and clutching her latte, demand I apologize for Christian bashing. I point out that I am not Christian bashing, I am, in fact, ignorance bashing. That goes over as well as you might think it would go over with them. Their voices raise. I smirk, and like playing their part in a script I’ve read a hundred times before, the woman says something like, you want to love people who will blow up your children and ruin this country, thats fine, but this is a Christian nation! I fire back with something like, its a nation of laws founded by people who made a separation between church and state. If you want to live in a country that has one religion you are welcome to but I doubt they will let you dress like a mermaid in heat or drive!

Now comes laughter, raised eye browns and the intake of shocked breath before they storm out. Mermaids in heat? I don’t know what that meant either but it put them over the top.

Lets review what might of missed your attention and certainly missed the two women’s.

  1. If its Turkey Bacon, its not made of pork. Its made of Turkey. A Muslim can touch it.
  2. At a time when religion and politics were the same thing, Jesus was killed for disagreeing with both. I doubt he would endorse a political party that just raised taxes on the poor but refuses to consider raising taxes on millionaires no matter how many times they invoke his name.
  3. Newt cheated on his wife while trying to get President Clinton fired for doing the same thing. That should be all anyone has to say to end his run for the White House.
  4. OK, he never took government money to build bombs. I was speaking pre-caffeine rhetorically.
  5. Dressing like Lindsay Lohans mother and coming from Church feels a little off to me.
  6. Muslim women are free to be wage slaves in America just like anyone else!

Thus concludes another thrilling adventure in Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of coffee with a little bit of conversation. I'm not even going to go into what happened when I posted this on Facebook.


BigKat Flower said...

Where's the damned LOVE button?

Distant Fox said...

I know its an old post but my heaven's man, there really should be an "I love it!" button! Why are you not 20 years younger and living where I can find you? This world needs more bluntness and thinkers to cancel out the rampant idiocy and hypocrisy.

joe klocek said...

I'm told I don't appear to be 43. so....

Anonymous said...

This was a beautiful post, as I have encountered that situation. You're a fantastic comic.