The American Dilemma and How We Can Fix It

Posts tagged ‘coffee’


 I hadn’t thought of the comedy of Henny Youngman for a very long time. Famous for his rapid-fire delivery of one liners he is perhaps best remembered for his routine that starts, “Now you take my wife – please.”

 Another of his routines began, “A man walked up to me and asked me for a dime for a cup of coffee.” I said, “Coffee’s a nickel.” He said, “Won’t you join me?”

 Yesterday after our morning visit to the dog park, Gracie and I made a small detour to Starbuck’s on our way home. I usually have a cup of freshly ground strong coffee at the house before we go on our morning outing but I had slept late and she was insistent that we should go now.

 I left Gracie in the car as I picked up my morning brew. This particular Starbuck’s had no place where I could securely fasten her and I knew from previous experience that she could easily re-arrange the tables if I tied her to one of those.

 I finally got to the head of the line (there were eight other customers ahead of me when I walked in). Although I am not a regular at Starbuck’s, around the holidays I will stop in to get a taste of their Christmas Blend which I have always enjoyed. Fortunately, I could see that it was on today’s menu.

 I also noticed that it was on sale in bulk for $14.95 a pound! It was last year that I bought a pound of it and paid $8.95. I don’t follow the price of coffee futures but when I returned home I looked them up. Wholesale coffee is presently trading at $2.26 a pound. (Nice markup).

 By the way, when I say I go to Starbuck’s occasionally for coffee – I mean it is just that – coffee. I have never been able to master the art of ordering their more exotic drinks. Unfortunately, though I have looked in bookstores and on-line, I can’t find a copy of, “Ordering at Starbuck’s for Dummies.” Apparently the volume is out of print.

 Well I set my coffee on a table and retrieved Gracie. As it happened, we sat right behind the menu board where drive-in customers placed their orders. I could clearly hear the customers and the very pleasant Starbuck’s employee who took their orders, repeating them back to make sure she had them right and then announcing their totals.

 “Your total is $7.14; $5.38; $8.84 (this included a very average pastry); $6.88” – and it went on and on. I calculated that the average ticket was around $6.00 – for a diluted coffee drink.

I tried to put this in perspective. For five dollars I could have eaten the breakfast buffet at one of the local casinos. I would have had my choice of a variety of juices and other beverages, hot or cold cereals, pastries, eggs in multiple forms including Benedict, ham sliced from the bone or bacon or sausage, a variety of potatoes prepared in several ways, etc. All for a smaller price than a quick drink at Starbuck’s – and far more nutritious. And my buffet meal would have created no crisis of conscience on my part regarding environmental issues.

 I realize that Starbuck’s uses environmentally-friendly materials in distributing its products – and I am grateful that they do. But based on the overflowing receptacles which I saw in the patio area, most Starbuck’s customers simply trashed these rather than taking them somewhere that they could be recycled. Yet more garbage to add to the heap of disposable diapers and tires which are filling our burgeoning landfills. (I did bring the little plastic sip-lid and the hot sleeve from my beverage home with me to add to my recycling bin).

 I applaud business success. Obviously, despite the weak economy, Starbuck’s has struck a chord with consumers and is exploiting that to its benefit. I congratulate them for recognizing a need and helping to fill it. And I’ll probably be back next year for a cup of Christmas Blend.

 But I wonder, if Henny Youngman were alive today, how would he revise his routine, “Coffee’s a Nickel?”


A man in his 30’s did a self-assessment and realized that his sex life was truly bleak.  He heard about a “Sex Enrichment” class that was starting and somewhat abashedly enrolled in it.

The first night the class met he took comfort in the fact that there were almost 100 others who had also joined and so he settled into his seat.

The instructor introduced himself and then said, “Thank you for joining this class.  In order for you to get the most out of it, it’s important that you participate in our discussions in a totally honest manner.”

“I am going to start by asking you this question. . How often do you have sex.?  When you hear the category which describes the frequency of your sexual activity, please raise your hand.”

“How many of you have sex three times a week or more?”

About 10% of the attendees raised their hands.

“Thank you – that’s good.  How about at least once a week?”

About 30% of those present raised their hands.

The instructor went on, “Once every two weeks … once a month … once every two months.”

Our 30 year old realized that at two months everyone in the room had raised their hand but for him.

“Once every three months … once every six months.”

Still no response.

The instructor finally said, “Once a year.”

At hearing that, our friend sprang from his chair, started jumping up and down and began waving his hands wildly above his head.

The instructor said to him, “I don’t mean to be critical.  That’s not what we’re here for.  But once a year, as you can see from the responses of your fellow students is certainly a minimal frequency.  Why are you so excited?”

The man shouted out, “BECAUSE TONIGHT’S THE NIGHT!

Tonight I am celebrating my 25th anniversary of abstinence – from McDonald’s.

Some good friends who live in Chicago’s Gold Coast hosted a wonderful annual Holiday party.  The company, food and libations were always delightful.  The gathering this particular year had far more people in attendance than on previous occasions and I consumed less food but an equal amount of booze as in years past.

The result was that after three hours of merry-making I reached my car and realized that my judgment and motor skills were functioning at less than at a peak rate.   I decided that for the sake of the pedestrians on the street, fellow drivers and myself I needed to stop and get something to eat and wait about an hour before driving the 10 miles home.  Fortunately, the “Rock and Roll” themed McDonald’s was only a few blocks away.

It was about 11:00 p.m.  I left my car in the garage of my friends’ apartment building and walked the two blocks to McDonald’s.

As usual, I ordered a Quarter Pounder with Cheese and a medium French Fries.  And then I added a large black coffee.

My order arrived with its usual efficiency and I grabbed the bag and coffee and made myself comfortable at a table.

I took a bite out of the Quarter Pounder.  It was moderately cold and I could feel the grease from the meat starting to coat my tongue.  My stomach churned a bit.  I reached for one of the fries but the grease from the burger minimized any flavor that the potatoes might have had before their deep-frying experience.  Well, I really wasn’t hungry so much as I was hoping to overcome the effects of the alcohol.

I put the sandwich and fries back in the bag and reached for my coffee.  Calling it coffee truly required a fertile imagination.  My concept of coffee is that you take a sip of the stuff and you’re ready to run a marathon.  That’s the way I brew it at home. This stuff came nowhere close to that.  It was more like darkly colored water with a strange flavor.

I thought about this “meal” as I sat there and I realized something.  This stuff was, pardon the expression, crap.  It wasn’t healthful and it wasn’t something that I needed to include in my diet.  And I vowed then and there that as a New Year’s Resolution, I was going to refuse to patronize McDonald’s starting that moment and throughout the following year.

I gathered up the remains of my order and carefully placed them in the garbage receptacle, went outside and hailed a taxi to get home.  That was in 1986 and every year since then I have renewed (and kept) my vow not to eat at McDonald’s.

In the last 25 years McDonald’s has probably grown about 30 gazillion times the size it was then.  And they did it all without my patronage.  I guess that they don’t miss me – nor I them.

But I am grateful to them for one thing. 

If it weren’t for McDonald’s I wouldn’t be able to say,


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