I’m sitting here in a Starbucks with a container of coffee in front of me, watching a cashier wait on customers. She’s been writing about half of the orders on cups and putting them in a queue for the barista (which I call a mixologist). She takes care of the simple coffee orders in a routine way that may someday be done by a robot: listen to the order – turn to the back counter – grab the proper size cup – fill it with blonde, pike or dark roast coffee – install a top – slip the cup into a thin, cardboard sleeve – swivel back around and hand the container to the customer. I watch her do this again and again, always exactly the same.
It’s the sleeves that bother me. I don’t know why, they just do. Whenever I’m handed a container with a sleeve, I wonder why they don’t use better cups. My sleeves end up stuck in my car’s cup holder or the one on my bicycle. It’s no small thing, the proliferation of these sleeves across the land. It is estimated that Starbucks goes through eight to ten million every day – close to FOUR BILLION a year.
I’m not a whacko environmental extremist, just a regular environmentally aware person. I take care of my trash, recycle and pick up stray litter on occasion, though I do take a frowned on “Sunday drive” every week. I like to survey my world and learn where the roads go. It’s an inborn, genetic trait to know your territory, going back to the days of the cavemen when it was important to know where the wooly mammoths roamed and the saber-toothed tigers lurked.
It’s not that the sleeves are that much of an environmental hazard anyway – they are biodegradable, but still, they irk me. I guess it’s an old coot thing. Right now, the one on my cup has slipped down and is resting on the table, like an extra-large shirt collar surrounding the neck of a skinny-necked guy like me. Every time I take a sip, I have to slide it up on the cup. Maybe my issue is increased by the picture of the Starbuck’s woman on the sleeve, wearing a crown and staring at me with a smug, disapproving look on her face. It makes me feel uncomfortable. It’s the same look my third grade teacher gave me when I handed in a test paper, an ink stained and eraser-shredded work of art.
I should bring a glove with me when I go to a “sleeve” place. One of those cheap, cotton things they sell in the hardware store by the bundle. Then, I could ask for a sleeveless, tall (that means small in English) dark roast. But I won’t. If I did, I’d look like even more of a geek, and I can’t risk it. Maybe Starbucks could put a pile of these cheap gloves by the cash register so customers could use them, and then toss them into a wash bin by the door on the way out. Most customers stay in the store until they finish their beverage and take up space for time on end. I know! I’m right there watching them.
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