Open Letter to the Parents in Starbucks

No, I'm not merely annoyed because I haven't yet experienced the joy of parenthood as you have

Image: blog_starbucks

Yeah, I know you're going to just dismiss anything I say because I don't know what it's like to be a parent. I'm just one of the selfish cranky single people who hasn't discovered the joy of children.

But hear me out, because I'm not upset with your kids.

I'm upset with you, because you must think I'm a moron.

Here we both are, sitting here in a Starbucks, or whatever other generic coffee chain, drinking about 50 cents worth of coffee that we paid 5 dollars for. And that 50 cents is being generous, even considering that it's a soy latte with hazelnut syrup.

I could drink coffee like this at home for a fraction of the price. And I wouldn't be wasting paper cups and thin wooden "muddlers" or plastic spoons or whatever. I could maybe even ensure that the coffee I bought was legitimately free trade so that the people who grow coffee aren't being ripped off as bad as they are by having to sell to places like Starbucks.

I'm sitting here drinking this coffee that is way over priced, bad for the environment, and almost certainly grown in Ethiopia by growers who are getting shafted on the deal. Throw into the mix you here with your child who screams for your attention every time he sees some new moving object out the window, it seems like I'm willing to put up with a lot to have this awesome coffee.

But I'm not. You see, the part of the picture you are missing is that when your children aren't here playing hide and seek between the chairs, it's quiet. Not library quiet, but adults-conversing-with-each-other-using-inside-voices quiet. It's maybe-me-and-the-person-sitting-next-to-me-might-chat-but-probably-not-and-that's-fine quiet.

Since your post-miracle-of-childbirth brain has forgotten about that reality, then, in your mind, the only reason I'm here is for the coffee.

But I'm not, because only a moron would pay this much for the coffee.

The reason Starbucks and chains like it have done so well, despite the fact that there have always been coffee shops, is because of the place. They could probably serve frozen squid on a stick and do just as well.

Because there are people like me who live in shitty little apartments in the middle of a huge city who want to relax somewhere else for a while. People who live with big families who want some time with people who aren't intimately connected with everything they do. People on break from work who just want to sit down for a bit. Students who are studying and who should probably be at the library instead but don't want to be shushed when they gossip over who likes who.

I'm buying fifty cents worth of coffee, and four and a half dollars of rent.

Rent that is seriously overpriced if you rezone the area for your personal kindergarten.

I never would have imagined that I'd find it worth 4.50$ to sit in a generic looking coffee shop for a while. But the people who design these places aren't amateurs. They designed it precisely with the intention of creating a mood. A mood that did not include "preschool".

I know you appreciate the ambiance of these generic coffee shops because you're here too, "taking a break" from your 24 hour a day job of parenting. Or, you would be on a break if you hadn't brought your work with you. Somewhere in your brain is a vague shadow left over of the life you had before kids, where places like this were a spot to chill out. You took it for granted then, and now show up oblivious to how you've fucked it up for the rest of us.

Look, getting down to business here, I'm not a hard ass who thinks that kids should be banned from all adult places. The whole point of taking kids out to the same places you go to is to socialize them. But it's not a passive thing. Kids aren't going to learn common decency by just doing whatever, wherever, and picking up manners by osmosis.

That means it's your job to make sure your kid is ready for this environment. Yeah, you, the parent. You need to bring your kid up to speed, and you need to do it in manageable steps. Starbucks is the deep end of the pool. It's not the place to start your kid swimming in society.

If you can't contain your kid's exuberance, then you go have your coffee at Denny's.

That's the deal. There are places for kids to run around, and places for kids to shut the fuck up. You see how no one else in the place is making anywhere near as much noise, and most of them are dead silent? It's because everyone understands the unsaid rules of behaviour here, the same way no one had to explain to us that this isn't a place for dancing or starting a barbecue.

When you get your kid to understand that some places aren't for shouting, then you can come enjoy an over priced victory coffee with the rest of us adults.

Until then, you can console yourself that even if the coffee at McDonald's sucks, at least you aren't being ripped off as much as I am.

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