A Place of Your Own

I’ve been corrupted by Corporate America … and I think I like it. I know, I know, I jumped on the Starbucks bandwagon pretty late in life-our society’s caffeinated six-year-olds would shake their chubby forefingers at me and pull out a pie chart from their mini-briefcases to show that I’m part of the 2 percent who didn’t discover coffee pre-junior high. I may live a few years longer than they will, they tell me, but I won’t be nearly wired enough to enjoy it.

My former romantic notions of college days involved a favorite, as-yet-to-be-discovered local java joint, a sparse crowd of eclectic co-eds and me typing away on a laptop in the corner, with fabulous hair. How dreamy and hopeful we are in our youth! Instead, I’m sitting in a Nashville Starbucks among Armani-clad bottle-blondes (with their noses so high, you’d think God had gone fishing and hooked a nostril), while I sit at the last open table writing this article in my brother’s old Spanish notebook. The truth, my friends, is far noisier and more expensive than I had anticipated.

Yet despite my slight dissatisfaction with the current detached state of things, I keep coming back. It’s either subliminal messages in their advertising or an addictive ingredient in their mocha, but I can’t get enough. No matter what city I’m in, no matter how adventurous I’m feeling, I forego spontaneity and interesting-looking, one-of-a-kind coffee shops in favor of the reliability at Starbucks. I know they’ll always have all the ingredients in stock to make my Cinnamon Spice Mocha juuussst right.

The downfall of “your place” being “everyone else’s place” is simple: You’re just a face in the crowd. When I ordered my delicious drink at the counter, the barista (just a fancy word for Starbucks slave, folks) showed no flicker of recognition of my shining face, though I myself have been a slave to coffee at this same Starbucks location for four years now. And yet there is no sign of my devotion in the pristine building-no “Will you have your regular?” greeting question, no juvenile “Katie + (insert name here) 4 EVER” carved into a table; nada. Despite the hundreds of dollars I’ve graciously shelled out over the years, to them my life is measured out in coffee beans.

This will never be “my place.” They won’t lose money while I’m away at school, and, therefore, they won’t be pleased at my return. There’s a whole generation pushing behind me, nursed on coffee and sung lullabies of stock exchanges and career advancement. To Corporate America, we are interchangeable.

Why do we feel the need to claim people, places and basically all nouns in general as our own? We act personally offended when our favorite underground musician’s song falls into rotation on the Top 40 radio stations. We have to buy a wedding dress, buy a house . No second-hands for us, thanks. It is as though our worth is determined by our tax write-offs. Oh, we’re too young to be worried about real estate!

Perhaps the desire to have things of our own is rooted in the need to easily define ourselves: I listen to X type of music, I frequent Y Restaurant, I wear Z style of clothes . but who am I? What a beautiful and forgiving world it would be if we were defined by our imperfections, mine apparently being run-on sentences, comma splices and a nagging coffee addiction.

I fear first impressions. I have a Northface jacket, but that’s because I’m from the south and have never had need for a warm coat before. I was shamefully a fan of MTV’s Laguna Beach, but I swear I can use three-syllable words correctly. I shop at American Eagle, but because they make the best affordable jeans (in my humble-ish opinion). And, as previously detailed, Starbucks is my second home because sometimes a girl just wants to splurge on a perfectly-brewed mocha. Can we really be defined by what we wear? Is it truly that important where we are seen? Can’t we all be brothers? But I digress.

I will never have fabulous hair. I won’t be able to afford a laptop for several more years. And maybe I’ve fallen hopelessly victim to a national franchise-but hey, who hasn’t? We can just rationalize that as Starbucks devotees we are all part of a bigger thing and somehow universally linked and all that jazz. Barista Miguel may not know my drink of choice, but I know that a particular Starbucks in Nashville will somehow always be mine. At least, that is, until they replace the table by the window that now proclaims “KL is smokin'” in black Sharpie.

Katie Lewis is a junior in the College of Arts and Sciences