Tuesday, 17 August 2010

The great java palaver

Modern life is complicated. It's enough to make you hanker after simpler times, when every decision didn't come with fifteen sub-sets of choices to be made.

It all started with upselling - the McDonald's "
Want fries with that?" approach. But now every purchase comes with a mind-boggling range of questions. Making the simplest transaction is like taking an A-level.

One of the worst offenders is Starbucks, which has managed to create an entirely new language around the supposedly simple action of buying a coffee. You need a degree in linguistics to order more than three beverages.

Which helps to explain why a seemingly well-adjusted, highly educated woman went ballistic in an upper west side branch of the popular coffee chain. Having asked for a toasted multigrain bagel, Lynne Rosenthal became incensed at the idea of being forced to specify whether she wanted butter or cheese on it.

Defending her barista-rage to the New York Post, the 62 year-old English Professor claimed "I refused to say 'without butter or cheese.' When you go to Burger King, you don't have to list the six things you don't want. Linguistically, it's stupid, and I'm a stickler for correct English."

In the past, the irate intellectual has enjoyed irritating Starbucks staff by refusing to select 'tall' or 'venti' - instead opting for the decidedly non-canon 'small' or 'large'. But yesterday she met her match in an equally tetchy server who told her "You're not going to get anything unless you say butter or cheese!"

rently, the argument escalated until the police were called and Rosenthal was ejected from the premises, without her bagel. "It was very humiliating to be thrown out, and all I did was ask for a bagel. If you don't use their language, they refuse to serve you."

Looking back, Steve Martin's early-90's classic 'L.A. Story' seems more like a prescient warning of things to come...

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