$50 Coffee

We love Starbucks.  Not that they are the greatest coffee company ever, but because they are literally everywhere and consistent.  When we travel, we know what we can get at the sign of the Mermaid.  We also use the Starbucks Gold Card, a debit card that saves a lot of hassle with carrying cash or putting up with credit card transaction fees per cup.

So, when we were in Seattle, the ancestral home and headquarters of Starbucks, for an IT conference, we had a need for “one for the road” when heading home.  There was a Starbucks just around the corner, but, being in a hurry, we elected to drive (us, the intrepid bike tourists?  What were we thinking?), with the excuse that it’s “on the way.”  Of course, urban shops don’t have drive-up windows (which we almost never use, anyway–half the enjoyment is ogling the pastry case and the coffee accessory displays arrayed to direct and slow traffic flow), and there is no parking on the street except a slot about two feet shorter than our not-so-big Jeep.  No problem, there’s another Starbucks just a few short blocks away, walkable in less time that it takes to chug a Venti caramel latte.  Such is life in big cities on the west coast: if you can see a Starbucks, odds are very good that you are in one already.

So, off we go, straight ahead.  And, lo, there is a parking spot directly in front of the store.  It’s about 5:30pm on a Saturday; the parking permit machine is halfway down the block.  It’s gotta be after hours, right?  So, we dash in, order coffee and a pastry, depleting our gold card balance by about $6.  But, by the time the pastry comes out of the microwave and we dash back to our car, there’s a $44 ticket stuck in the wiper blade, with the ink still drying, and a date stamp of 5:27, about 20 seconds ago.

Of course, the $50 coffee pales in comparison to staying at the conference hotel.  Oh, it was a very nice hotel, to be sure, but city real estate is at a premium, so everything is compact.  Double bed, up against the wall, and bathroom so small that you had to step into the tub to close the door.  But, big closet, complete with complementary (with $20 deposit) umbrella (this is the Emerald City, after all), and corresponding big price tag, at nearly $200 a night, bring your own iPod if you want to wake to music.  But, for this, we got a spectacular view of the sunset over the Olympic Mountains (they’re to the north from our windows at home).

And, the conference was terrific: so much talent in the Silicon Rain Forest: most of the  instructors were fairly local, and absolutely tops in their fields.  I took classes in network troubleshooting and server configuration management from local folks (Portland, OR being fairly local) and VM cluster management from one of Google’s top New York sysadmins, whose books line my office shelves.  Will we back? You bet, but next time, we take the ferry and the bus, like we used to when we worked here, back in the 90s.  Parking in the city is a non-starter.