Not Just A Good Public Restroom

There was a time when I disdained Starbucks*. In fact, those feelings still pop-up now and then when I'm stuck using some ridiculous combination of words ("iced venti doppio," ugh), when I really just want two shots of espresso in a large cup. But it's hard not to admire the company — all that venti shmenti business notwithstanding. They sell a remarkably consistent product, and in most Starbucks, the service is friendly and fast. Their ubiquitousness has been bad for my favorite Mom and Pop coffee shops, and good for folks looking for a quick visit to a ladies room. 'Bucks has been particularly good to Michael Gates Gill, author of How Starbucks Saved My Life. The son of the late New York Times critic Brendan Gill, he grew up around snooty coffee types (he once petted John Updike's hair). But years later, he found himself out of a job, a relationship, and worst of all — health insurance. When a Starbucks manager offered him a job, he took it (and the health insurance the company offers), and turned his life around. (While he tours with the book, he's still planning on working one day a week! One wonders what will happen when the movie comes out?!) Mike Gill will be here to take your questions... and possibly your orders.

*Not to be confused with Starbuck of BSG fame, whom I completely adore. Though the show and the shop have some weird nomenclature stuff in common. Can you order an iced Viper, I wonder?



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Great program! Great message! It reminds me of some quotes from ancient Chinese thought. The guest suggests, "Just leap!" A Zen proverb says: "Leap and the net will appear." The ancient philosopher Lao Tzu said happiness can be found in low places. Similarly, the guest describes finding joy in the simplicity of shared humanity among Starbucks workers.

Below are quotes from Lao Tzu's Tao Te Ching, which he wrote at the behest of a guard at the gates of China, as he was fed up with society and was trying to leave. (The translation is by Stephen Mitchell -- "Tao" has been translated as "the way things are" that "flows through all things."

"Do you learn more from success or failure?"

"The supreme good is like water,
which nourishes all things without trying to.
It is content with the low places that people disdain.
Thus it is like the Tao.

In dwelling, live close to the ground.
In thinking, keep to the simple.
In conflict, be fair and generous.
In governing, don't try to control.
In work, do what you enjoy.
In family life, be completely present.

When you are content to be simply yourself
and don't compare or compete,
everybody will respect you."

The guest's lack of prejudice also reminds me of the mind described in the Tao Te Ching. Many people consider Starbucks "lowly" in terms of corporate morality, driving out mom and pop shops. Yet, the guest does not let this keep him from seeing the goodness of humanity that can be found in places with a "lowly" reputation. Jesus spoke of this same message.

Sent by Irene C | 4:17 PM | 9-26-2007

My previous quote about success was from memory, which was inaccurate! The exact words are:

"What difference between success and failure?
Must you value what others value,
avoid what others avoid?
How ridiculous!"

"Fame or integrity: which is more important?
Money or happiness: which is more valuable?
Success or failure: which is more destructive?"

"If your happiness depends on money,
you will never be happy with yourself.

Be content with what you have;
rejoice in the way things are.
When you realize there is nothing lacking,
the whole world belongs to you."

"Failure is an opportunity."

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Sent by Irene C | 4:24 PM | 9-26-2007