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When the Community Board is Empty

Most of you know that I have recently moved. I live in a very strange community that has come to make me appreciate the effects of foreign property investment on our ‘communities’.  In effect, all of the empty grand homes in our neighbourhood  are mostly empty, with lights on timers, regular professional landscaping, and someone who clears the local newspaper and flyer delivery from their front porch. There is no neighbourhood here, only bank accounts in the form of houses.

It robs us of community. It robs us of mom and pop shops able to keep their doors open to provide goods and services for the neighbourhood.

Yesterday I popped in to a local  Starbucks for a delightfully refreshing iced drink, and while I was waiting for my sweetie’s pour-over, I turn to the community board as I’m often want to do.

This is what I saw;

A picture is worth a thousand words. Nothing. There is regularly nothing related to community posted on this board. Despite there being a steady stream of people in line to buy their caffeinated bevvies at all hours through the weekdays and on the weekends, there is little if any sense of community.

I’m a writer, and admittedly, I’ve spent way too much time in coffee shops picking away at my keyboard, and I’ve spent way too much money on coffee. I have however honed a keen sense of place while I’m out and about mooching free office space.

I have never (not even once) settled into this location for my hour long writing sessions, arranged for a meeting with friends, or lingered any longer than it takes to make my Sunday-morning-one-bag-in-one-bag-out herbal tea.

This weekend in Toronto while getting settled in to a workshop, I was recommended to a coffee shop just down the street from where we were gathering. And this is what their community board looked like;

 

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Mallo – Located at 785 Bathurst Street. Worth becoming a regular meet-up spot. Definitely make time to try their absolutely delish menu.

I stopped, took off my coat, enjoyed a cup of tea, and ordered one to go. The staff were so friendly, and vibe was so great, that I came back again after my workshop and tried their menu with a pal who was in the neighbourhood. $70.00 later I felt like I had a new place to add to my favourites. Lesson learned; a sense of community translates to profit.

Earlier this week, I was back in my old stomping grounds at my favourite Starbucks in Mississauga, and their community board looked like this;

community board

 

When your community boards are empty at informal meeting spaces like coffee shops, there is a fundamental problem within the local community. There is a disconnect.  People go out to write, to gather, and to get their over-priced half-caf-low-fat-made-exclusively-for-me beverages because they are craving connection as much as they are craving sugar and caffeine.

When your community board is empty, I challenge you to go out and find one that is overflowing with posters for yoga in the park,  poetry readings, amateur nights at the local coffee house. I guarantee you’ll be a happier, healthier person.

 

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Red Cup Christians and Other Garbage

starbucksventiwineHave you been reading about ‘Red Cup Christians’, and seen the conservative Christian memes about how terrible, evil, and abominable Starbucks is? You can hardly glance at a social media site without seeing some sort of preachy meme.

Normally I would link to some articles, etcetera, etcetera, but it’s been a long week,  and you can google it yourself if you wish. If you are wise though, you will simply trust my judgment and carry on reading darlings. Cheers to that!

The gist of this latest major brand attack is two-fold.

First of all, being a ‘Red-Cup Christian’ means that you’re Christian on the inside but not courageous enough in your faith to stand out from the crowd. Second of all, there is a Starbucks-customer shaming about how much people spend on their delicious and delightful-every-day-caffeine treats, versus how much we should be sharing with the homeless, the less fortunate….blah, blah, freaking blah.

Let me let you in on a little secret; the preachy red-cup hating, finger-pointing-wanna-be-self-righteous meme-making arseholes had better start putting their money where their mouth is.

In my vast experience, people who drink Starbucks are not ‘Red-Cup’ anything. They don’t necessarily hoard their money and spit in the face of the less fortunate. So, to all of those preachy-gotta-have-something-to-bitch-about whiners, just shut up.

I love, love, love my Starbucks. As a matter of fact, my squishy pink bits are getting warm thinking about my next praline-chestnut-eggnog-rum-santa-kissing-hot-and-whipped-cream-laden-over-priced-first-world beverage. My mouth is watering and I’m generally moist  all over just thinking about it.

And you know what? I’m the lady at the red light who rolls down the window for the homeless guy at the corner and gives whatever she can. I’m the lady who volunteers her time to charities, donates to the foodbank on a regular basis and also lives on a single income. You know what else? I don’t go around judging people based on the colour of their coffee cup.

….because life just ain’t that simple folks. If you think it is, you’ve been steered drastically wrong.

Just because someone buys a take-out coffee does not mean they are selfish, evil or satan-loving. It means they are treating themselves to a coffee beverage that they enjoy. Get over it you big, hypocritical Proctor and Gamble, big-pharma, Wal-Mart shopping twit.

Have you unconditionally opened the doors of your large, spacious and warm churches, temples and mosques? Have you gone out in the cold and handed out food, blankets and offered your time to clean toilets and counsel those very people you think just need the money we’re spending at the coffee shop? Likely not, because that is a heck of a lot more difficult than sitting comfortably at home and clicking on your social media sites.

A grande, non-fat no-whip eggnog latte please, and hold the hypocrisy.

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Dear Starbucks,

starbucks2015This letter has been coming for a long time. An event this weekend encouraged me to reach out to you, my beloved.

First of all, let me say that I adore you.

I love everything about you. I love your dark wooden décor, and your comfy leather chairs. I love your hipster music, and the red cups and aprons you’ve brought to us for  the winter holiday season.

I love that you are a relaxed place for dates, getting together with the girls, and allow writers like myself to occupy a table for an hour or two with just enough stimulation to feel like we’re not crazy, isolated artists.

As a self-proclaimed city girl, I am convinced that I could not survive winter without your eggnog lattes and cranberry bliss bars. Simply put, you are one of the simple pleasures in my life. I love you.

I love you so much that I must share with you a little suggestion regarding your tea. You see, as much as I live for your coffee, I also adore your tea. Youthberry is my favourite followed closely by Peach Tranquility. Your tea is often my most reliable counselor during times of self-doubt and rejection. It is however rather hazardous to drink. if I’m not enjoying the ambiance in-house, I’m likely enjoying your beverages and nummies on-the-go.

Which brings me to the tea. Yesterday, the cute, little, paper tab attached to the string on the bag was tucked directly under the little sippy hole. I’d gone through one of your drive-thrus prior to getting on a very busy highway for a roadtrip. Did you know that the cottons string wicks the moisture from the tea, soaks the little paper tab, causing it to drip down the side of the cup? Perhaps you didn’t. Well, it does, and it gets kinda messy.

Whilst trying very hard not to get wet from the drippy tab yesterday, the lid of the venti cup popped off as the paper cup folded, and splashed boiling hot tea all over my hand, my lap, and inadvertently, the steering wheel.  Fortunately I had a co-pilot with quick hands and a lovely sense of humour.

We managed with giggles no-less, (while still in 120 km+, four lane traffic) to wipe the steering wheel and wedge all of the serviettes I had prudently stashed in the glove box under my soaking wet derriere. I managed to drive to the nearest service centre, all the while holding my plump rump up off the seat, kind of like holding a 120 km an hour squat  for ten minutes.

My pinky finger was burned, as was my pride, but it could have been worse had I not been an old experienced driver. A precautionary word to drivers – you may wish to order two beverages instead of a venti.

My darling, precious, true-love coffee-house Starbucks, my suggestion to you is two-fold; please fix the tea bag wicking problem, and think of a way to make your venti cup design less tippy, less likely to collapse, and still hold all of the nummy-nom-nom goodness that your beverages are known for.

Please know that I relate my tale of warm-woe to you so that you can simply become more awesome.

Your most devoted fan,

Andshelaughs

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Amish On-Line & Other Absurdities

itsawildworldI do most of my socializing via phone while I’m driving. Hands-free of course.

More and more I’ve been doing less and less talking, and that suits me just fine.

Coming off of an energy-sucking few months, I find most people exhausting and barely tolerable. My overworked bullshit detector has become antiquated, and I’m left to depend on my quick wit and lack of patience. A deadly combination at best.

The conversation I had this morning with one of the few people I find tolerable began with our shared disdain for small-talk, and the necessity for sobriety.

We talked about my latest therapy session, and the ridiculous need to quantify the human experience for the sole requirement of doing business. What a tragedy of ignorance.

As it happens, this therapy session of which we were speaking, ended with the therapist saying a pat congratulations for being so resilient and the required, “Goals have been met”.

What? Goals have been met? Like not raising my own jugular vein and making a tidy incision? Like not overdosing on a sweet bedtime concoction of prescription pharmaceuticals, vintage wine  and over the counter cough syrup? If that’s the case, then, Yay me! Goals met indeed! Someone decant the wine and pass the Nyquil.

Our conversation veered to the more spiritually enlightened, something about taking an on-line course about Quakers. Which, struck me as something akin to Amish On-Line, or AshleyMennoniteMadison.com.

Our world, if you have the right sense of humour, can be wildly interesting and engaging. It can also be anxiety provoking and lonely. It seems that the more empathetic someone is, and the more spiritually engaged, that the more difficult it is to tolerate the thick curtain of bullshit that pervades our public lives.

Two men across from me at a café hold a business meeting so that their review of employee performance (including the employee names) is now public. An annoying bald-headed athlete-wanna-be in tear away pants has a phone conversation on highest volume speaker phone while he waits for what I can only imagine is a coffee beverage as pretentious as himself. A couple get up , leaving a pile of unpurchased and carelessly thumbed through books for someone else to clean up. Pages wrinkled and now wasted, as no one wants to pay full price for a dirty book.

In a world we all share so intimately, I am astounded at the variety of perspectives about what is acceptable, and what makes someone a complete social write-off.  For instance, the gentleman who just  tried unsuccessfully to attend the café washroom with a copy of the Globe & Mail tucked under his arm. He just made haste for the washroom at the back. Note to self: wait until you get home, do not touch the public copy of the newspaper.

As absurd as taking a course about Quaker spirituality on-line may sound, it is no more absurd than the life you can witness around you at any given time. Keep your eyes peeled, your phone on silent, and your sense of humour well-maintained.