Monday, August 06, 2007

1 Fish, 2 Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish

Stanley Fish has a problem. He thinks the problem is that he has to stir his own coffee. I think it is that he last lost his mind. Yes, the Stanley Fish, the literary theorist, the "Davidson-Kahn Distinguished University Professor" at Florida International University, formerly at Berkeley and Duke, author of 10 books has been to Starbucks and DIDN'T LIKE IT!!! But why don't I let him tell you his own self?

It turns out to be hard. First you have to get in line, and you may have one or two people in front of you who are ordering a drink with more parts than an internal combustion engine, something about “double shot,” “skinny,” “breve,” “grande,” “au lait” and a lot of other words that never pass my lips. If you are patient and stay in line (no bathroom breaks), you get to put in your order, but then you have to find a place to stand while you wait for it. There is no such place. So you shift your body, first here and then there, trying not to get in the way of those you can’t help get in the way of.

Finally, the coffee arrives.

But then your real problems begin when you turn, holding your prize, and make your way to where the accessories — things you put in, on and around your coffee — are to be found. There is a staggering array of them, and the order of their placement seems random in relation to the order of your needs. There is no “right” place to start, so you lunge after one thing and then after another with awkward reaches.

Unfortunately, two or three other people are doing the same thing, and each is doing it in a different sequence. So there is an endless round of “excuse me,” “no, excuse me,” as if you were in an old Steve Martin routine.

But no amount of politeness and care is enough. After all, there are so many items to reach for — lids, cup jackets, straws, napkins, stirrers, milk, half and half, water, sugar, Splenda, the wastepaper basket, spoons. You and your companions may strive for a ballet of courtesy, but what you end up performing is more like bumper cars. It’s just a question of what will happen first — getting what you want or spilling the coffee you are trying to balance in one hand on the guy reaching over you.

Stanley: pay attention. This is for your own good. Just stay home, have an Ovaltine, and stop boring the crap out of us.



Anonymous said...

But you omit the point of the post, which is that consumers are asked to pay high prices and simultaneously expected to do a lot of the work entailed in service activities. And then your friendly barista expects a tip, too!

Angus said...

I eagerly await the opening of FISHBUCKs, where lattes are a nickel, tips are punishable by death, and the barista knows exactly how you want your drink and makes it for you perfectly each time!!

Mungowitz said...



Anonymous said...

Hey, he seems a bit more innocuous than some of his former colleagues at Duke.

Were I to choose between Fish and his anodyne NYT piece and the public statements of 88 of his former colleagues at Duke, I'd stick to the former, thank you very much.

Angus said...

lol!! good one. I'd go with ole Ovaltine Stan over that bunch as well. Not sure how the existence of the G88 justifies crappy NY times columns though.

Anonymous said...

Me thinks you have been ripped off at slate.

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