Don’t Go to Starbucks on Vacation
by Jack Fitzpatrick | Arizona State University
The typical American college student’s summer consists of several common leisure activities, which have become so prevalent among students on vacation that there may actually be a mathematical formula to determine how a freshman will spend his or her summer.
Any given student, home from a strenuous semester, may bypass some of these pastimes, but will inevitably partake in at least two or three. We are as predictable as bugs near a lamp on a cloudy night.
For example, Tumblr blogs are practically beginning to define summer vacation for many students. As soon as class ends, blogs about travelling to Europe, summer internships and having a summer birthday spring up like plants preparing for a harvest. This trend of Tumblr blogs has increased so drastically, and rings so true, that I’m probably offending some of my friends by writing this. I personally know people with all three of those blogs this summer. I’m guilty, too. I’m keeping a photo-a-day blog from my home in Jupiter, Florida, as if anyone wants to see my pictures of sprawling South Florida suburbs.
Excessive Facebooking is also a popular activity, especially for the students who don’t have jobs over the summer. I don’t have any statistics to support this statement, but I’m confident that status “likes” skyrocket in June before plummeting back down to normal levels in August, when students actually have something to do. During the school year, a status about the tuna melt I had at Dunkin’ Donuts might get one “like” — probably from my dad. When summer comes around, that tuna melt becomes a celebrity. People I haven’t heard from in years “like” my tuna melt status. I don’t blame them; it’s summer and they have nothing better to do.
Another good example is the approximately six-week binge called “study abroad,” which is actually a hybrid between studying abroad and getting smashed in Europe — usually consisting of two parts alcoholism and one part half-assed studying (so that’s really only half a part studying) — has become a staple of the lives of 18 to 20-year-olds.
This activity is so popular that it has spawned a miniature summer activity — a baby cliché, if you will. Even students who don’t go overseas still often manage to travel for at least a week or two. Every college student has a couple friends who posted Facebook pictures of their trip to some big city, whether it’s Philadelphia or Las Vegas. Maybe it happens when these students go home to their parents’ houses and realize their bedrooms have disappeared, giving them no reason to stay home.
Last weekend I got home from my own big city. I had spent the week on a family vacation in San Francisco, walking across the Golden Gate Bridge, seeing how fortune cookies are made in Chinatown and drinking vats of coffee from the city’s coolest cafes. Coffee was especially important to my San Francisco experience. I believe that cuisine is one of the most important parts of a city’s culture, and coffee is the most important part of a city’s cuisine, unless you’re in Miami, in which case cocaine is probably the most important part of the cuisine. In San Francisco, quality coffee is on every corner. The Grove, Tully’s, The Coffee Roastery, All Star Donuts and Coffee — I experienced it all.
I encountered a problem, though, and discovered that two time-honored summer traditions cannot be practiced at the same time.
Frequenting crappy chain restaurants is yet another activity that college students are drawn to during summer break. Places like Taco Bell become havens for them, since it’s cheap and crappy, like dorm food. Anything in the local shopping mall’s food court is a good option.
Starbucks is most popular of the chain restaurant destinations, since it hides behind a facade of originality. As if hoping to convince customers that it is owned not by a large group of wealthy stockowners, but rather by a humble, coffee-loving elderly couple who were born and raised in your hometown. Oh, look! They give money to charity every time you buy a $4 cup of coffee. They’re so caring! It’s like going to McDonald’s and ordering a supersized serving of pretense.
As you can tell, I am not a fan of Starbucks. But I wouldn’t mind it so much if it didn’t infringe on my ability to travel. Like Harry Potter and Lord Voldemort, these two summer activities contrast so much — from the very core of their existence — that they cannot possibly exist at the same time without creating a catastrophe. Traveling is about exploring and trying new things. Starbucks is about going to the same place so many times that you’ve memorized the language they’ve invented, in which “grande” somehow means small.
You see, I live in a town called Jupiter, in Palm Beach County, Florida. In Jupiter, there are two places to get coffee: Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts. I choose Dunkin’ Donuts for the tuna melts, as my Facebook friends know, even though that’s just as bad as Starbucks. I could get that same tuna melt anywhere in the civilized world, just like someone who goes to Starbucks could get the same Frappuccino anywhere else. So when I’m somewhere that has something other than Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts, I tend to take advantage of the places I can’t find in Jupiter.
So when I learned that my sister has an intense addiction to Starbucks drinks, I knew there would be a battle. And I was right.
I refused to enter a single Starbucks; she insisted on visiting one every day.
I complained about how much time we were spending at Starbucks (with me waiting outside); she “accidentally” spilled a Frappuccino on my pants.
My sister won the battle, and we spent so much time going to Starbucks that we never went to any of the other coffee places within a five-minute walk.
After about three days, I began waking up by 7:30 a.m., showering quickly and getting breakfast by myself — one new place every morning. I had doughnuts, scones, muffins and more, all with a cup of coffee that I couldn’t get at home. It was officially a successful vacation. And all the other stuff in San Francisco was cool, too.
So while you’re joining in the fun of college student summer clichés, just don’t mix them up. Just like it’s not acceptable to wear a swimsuit — fun as swimming may be — to a fancy restaurant, you shouldn’t go to Starbucks on vacation. Save it for when you’re at home, with nothing better to do.
Next week I’m going to Washington D.C., and when I say there won’t be any Starbucks, I mean it. It will not happen. I will see the monuments, tour the White House and Capitol, visit Ford Theater and drink whatever coffee our nation’s capital has to offer.
After that, I can go back to appreciating those college clichés that we all know and love, like sleeping until noon, working out every day in the hope that you’ll stay in good shape during the school year, and working a crappy job somewhere like Burger King or Pizza Hut. Or Starbucks.Jack Fitzpatrick is a sophomore at Arizona State University's Walter Cronkite School of Journalism, focusing on digital journalism. He has written for the school's student newspaper, the journalism school's yearly magazine and now also writes for The Downtown Devil, the downtown Phoenix campus's student news website.