Saturday, February 4, 2012

The coffee shop formerly known as Starbucks

Starbucks

My husband and I went on a date night tonight.  My brother and his wife watched our 5 kids as a trade for us watching their one child last week.  I thought that was a pretty good deal.  We went to our typical thai restaurant, then remembered we had a gift card and bought a Civil War documentary at Best Buy.  We thought my brother might send us away if we came back that quick, so we decided to stop in at Starbucks and have some hot chocolate and a cookie.

This is what we were greeted with.  A symbol.  All I could think of was the symbol that the "Artist formerly known as prince" chose instead of his own name.  When I read about why he did this, I found that he decided to use this symbol as a retaliation against Warner Brothers and the lack of control he had over his artistic output in his albums.  I used to think it was because he thought he was just too cool to have a word represent him, so he chose a symbol.

This is how it feels it is with Starbucks.  They have officially become a worldwide brand.  When you are a brand, you are international.  Children know you.  Elderly people know you.  People from Russia to New Zealand recognize who you are.  You become above words and are known by your icon.

I'm not sure what this says about modern culture.  Does it mean that we are dumbing ourselves down, living by symbols to recognize things?  Is the written word becoming unimportant?  My Apple computer uses icons for me to identify the applications I wish to use.  The Chrome browser we have installed has no text in its header and uses symbols entirely.

Are we too impatient to take the time to read words?  I was looking for movies online when we were considering that as a part of our date tonight and  I immediately went to the page that had a small icon of the movie poster.  This way, I could judge the movie by its promotion picture, thus having a quicker and easier time of finding a good film.  In the end, this wasn't useful at all. I had no idea what the movies were really about and they all seemed silly anyway.  If I had read a brief synopsis of each movie, I would have had a better idea and we might have found something good. Instead, we scrapped the movie idea and bought the Civil War documentary, reading the back of the case and realizing that it would be interesting.

How much am I missing when I go to my same thai restaurant and don't take the time to read about the new little restaurants people are opening up all over our area?  What do I miss when I don't take the time to drive to the interesting Co-op stores people tell me sell really great organic food?  I'm inspired by this Starbucks symbol, while simultaneously feeling a little sadness and nostalgia.  Starbucks may have gone name brand, but there are so many new little coffee shops opening up all the time.  Not everything in life has been simplified into a symbol.  I have a choice about the types of places I go, and I don't need to choose them by symbol.  I think I'll take the time to try to dig a little deeper and find the things and places that need to be described by word of mouth or written review.  Maybe I'll find something like the coffee shop that used to be in Pike Place Market back in 1971.

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