Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Even Starbux

No, it was not a nightmare. I was walking along Route 17 in Paramus, New Jersey. This is what a world looks like when people can imagine no life not totally ruled by the automobile. There are no sidewalks. This is not a limited access highway, but Jersey barriers separate northbound from southbound lanes and a pedestrian would literally risk life and limb to cross the road. To get to the other side, there is no choice but to get in the car and drive who-knows-how-far to the next overpass to reverse direction and then drive back.

On a short morning stroll to see what was around, what should I find but a Starbucks. A couple of doors down from the "Romantic Depot" porn shop and next to the plumbing supply warehouse was a recent incarnation of the once-thought-to-be-hip Seattle coffee cafe. Other than the sign outside and a hint of slightly nicer than average fixtures inside, there was nothing to differentiate this coffee outlet from a Dunkin Donuts or a McDonalds.

We have a Starbucks back home in Sharon, Massachusetts. It has become the focal point of our little town center. Friends rendezvous there and bicyclists begin and end rides there. Would-be high school hipsters hang out there. Business people meet there. Naturally, I would prefer some kind of funky locally-owned cafe, but for our struggling town center, a Starbucks is pretty cool.

Now, after about seven years, we get the news that the bean counters at headquarters are closing our Starbucks. There are two newer outlets nearby down on Route 1 (Our version of Route 17) that apparently get more business because automobile access is much better that will remain open.

Maybe I'm prone to romantic notions (In addition to those catered to by the likes of places like the Romantic Depot.), but I liked to think of Starbucks as the kind of place that would help build a community, a place for people who cared about their hometowns, a place for people to discuss the important issues of the day and form warm personal relationships. In my heart, I knew better. Starbucks is just another mega-corporation selling an illusion and focusing on the bottom line. If that means drive-up windows in Paramus, so be it.

No comments: