Take My Starbucks, Please!
July 21, 2008

I didn't expect to have an opinion about this issue. I mean, I can have an opinion on almost any issue -- you should have heard me on the phone last night with the hapless public opinion pollster who was asking me what I thought about Gavin, neighborhood safety, and the city's budget deficit -- but I really didn't think that the coffee giant's mass closings would filter through to me in any significant way.

For one, we don't live as close to a 'Bucks as we used to. Back in Cambridge, we could be counted on to be lazy enough to go downstairs and cross the street for a tall, flavored, non-fat latte instead of making it ourselves. (The fact that our entire apartment had the potential to short out if we even thought of using the coffee maker might have had something to do with it.) But now, the closest Starbucks is four blocks away, and there's like fifteen indie joints in between. Also, we have a grinder that is too beautiful to be ignored.

So, Starbucks? Closing? Meh.

But then I saw the list of stores closing in various Bay Area cities and suddenly I got annoyed. If ANY Starbucks needs to close in SF, it's the one at Fulton and Masonic, and you may well ask why. No, it's not because of the sometimes-surly staff or the lack of outlets for the choke of freelancers wasting time at Fark and AICN. It's not even because of the "save the earth" flyers drifting in every time The 43 trundles by. Nope, it's because of the dumb-ass double-parkers.

Eastbound on Fulton, there are two narrowed lanes -- one that is justifiably hogged by The 5 and people turning into Lucky or onto Central, and the other that is overlapped by legitimate (though slightly questionable) parking. If you are in the 5 lane and not turning left at Lucky or Central, you have less than a block to get over to the right in order to pass through the intersection with some legitimacy. Most drivers don't care about legitimacy and continue in the left-turn lane all the way through the intersection, causing drivers in the right lane to be constantly vigilant of last minute right-merging drivers who don't bother with turn signals.

And that hairball is in the best of situations, i.e. when there are no double-parkers hopping up on venti soy cinnamon chai lattes. However, add the double-parkers and it's a whole new gauntlet with an annoyed stream of Fulton traffic piling up behind them. With advance warning and charity from the left-laners, some cars can edge around the double-Starkers. Unfortunately, the unluckies get caught out in the busy Masonic intersection and immediately become Urban Assholes that get honked within an inch of their life.

The double-parkers who ditch their car just around the Fulton corner from Masonic while they run inside to get their stuff are bad enough. Even worse -- in a moral sense -- are the people who drove them there. Instead of doing the sensible, considerate, LEGAL thing of driving around the block until their counterpart emerges with a tray of caffeine, they just sit there. They sit there on a busy street while TWO lanes of traffic -- PLUS BUSES -- try to get around them. They sit there, yapping on their cellphones or staring vacantly at the drivers who inch by, blaring their horns.

I am a horn-blarer. I didn't used to be one*, but when you've had to violently cut off the guy next to you -- WHO IS IN HIS RIGHTFUL LANE -- to avoid nailing the Starbucks car that came to a sudden stop (no signal and no flashers, of course) because the driver or passenger simply cannot live for one more second without caffeine, well then, you start to blare with the best of them. And not just a half-apologetic, short, "Hey, the light is green, dude, and we're all waiting on you," FYI toot, either. I'm talking a full-on angry, long, "I'm now a block past you but I'm still blaring because that's just how stupid you are" kind of thing.

So, please Starbucks, close THAT store.

*An unfortunate incident in high school with the Vomit Comet caused the unreliable horn to be disconnected. If I wanted to honk I had to touch two bare wires together, which was such a pain in the ass (and probably dangerous, as they often sparked) that I got out of the honking practice all together. 6 years in Boston with no car further distanced me from expressing my road rage audibly. I'm clearly getting up to speed by leaps and bounds now.

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