Image by the Downtown Doodler

Though Starbucks Coffee Company originated in Pike Place Market in Seattle, for many New Yorkers the brand is undeniably New York. In Manhattan, Starbucks are as prevalent as ATM machines. Starbucks situates itself near every business building, educational institution, and major attraction point. Sometimes, there are Starbucks inside corporate buildings. How did a local coffee shop bearing a brown and white mermaid become the green and white giant it is today?

There is something about a trench coat, the New York Times, and a Starbucks coffee.   New York Times street photographer Bill Cunningham often captures this marvel when the weather in New York City gets just cold enough for people to emerge in their trench coats yet warm enough that no gloves are necessary. Instead of gloves, New Yorkers caress in one hand a folded portion of the Times and in the other a warm cup of coffee purchased at none other than Starbucks. The Times keeps you informed up to the New-York-minute and the Starbucks helps you keep up with the minute. One can almost say both are essential equipment to help you survive the morning rush and conquer the afternoon debate.

Why are New Yorkers obsessed with this coffee titan over neighbourhood cafes? For one thing, it’s everywhere. Convenience, efficiency, and standardization stand at the core of everything in this city. Another subconscious reason to return to Starbucks every morning is to begin your day with a feeling of empowerment. One my favorite scenes in the movie, You’ve Got Mail, was when Tom Hanks’s character, Joe Fox, describes every custom order at Starbucks a way of defining yourself among a crowd of people.

“The whole purpose of places like Starbucks is for people with no decision making abilities to be able to make 6 decisions just to buy 1 cup of coffee. Short. Tall. Light. Dark. Caf. Decaf. Low-fat. Non-fat”¦   So people who don’t know what the hell they’re doing or who on earth they are can for only $2.95 get not just a cup of coffee, but an absolutely defining sense of self! Tall! Decaf! Cappuccino!” — Joe Fox

As much as the consumer is equipped decision-making prowess, Starbucks too reciprocates this ability by making certain decisions for us. Starbucks has the incredible ability to decide what season it is.   As soon as the menu boards became covered in little doodles of red and yellow leaves, and it displays in curly cursive letters, ”Pumpkin Spice Latte” — people know fall has come to New York City.

Later, Starbucks will roll out their red cups with white snowflakes on it to announce the holiday season. Regardless of the seasonal changes, there is one thing that always remains the same — the line at Starbucks just before 9AM. The morning rush probably can be captured from an aerial view of Manhattan. People flood the street grid and move like tsunamis toward specific corners and disappear beneath a green sign.

That green is everything. The Starbucks green with RGB values 0, 89, 45, allowed Starbucks to recently shed its name off from their coffee cups completely to allow the mermaid to stand as a symbol for Starbucks.   A risky move — but they did it. They have successfully transformed their name into a brand, and the brand into an image. The green mermaid was enough. Perhaps soon it will only be a white cup with a green circle to signify its brand.

One of the most commonly diagnosed psychiatric conditions in New York City is sidewalk rage.   Sidewalk rage is when a person acts violently as a result of people walking slower in front of them on the sidewalk. Some even describe violent thoughts of sidewalk rage as, “wanting to punch someone in the back of the head.”

The reason why I am fascinated with this condition is because I believe Starbucks rage is next to follow.   It’s 8:40AM — 20 minutes before I have to be at work. The line inside the café extends out into the street. There are tapping feet, groans and sighs explicitly loud to throw hints at the employees behind the bar. Finally, you are the third person in line. The two people in front of you order Tall, Decaf, Lattes consecutively.

Decaf? You make every caffeine dependent citizen stand after you in line so that you can order decaf? — Starbucks rage begins and spreads like the plague.

Though rarely a morning passes without an emotional battle with Starbucks, you are bound by the golden handcuffs of the chain to return the next day. Stabucks becomes your frenemy.

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