Posts Tagged ‘Starbucks’

SENIOR CITIZEN FRIENDLY

It has been almost seven years since I wrote about my shock and dismay over a dining experience with my family and my father’s senior citizen card (see Senior Citizen Discount blog post). It was just altogether unpleasant so we never went back to the restaurant again. Fortunately, seven years later, we haven’t had any untoward incidents with my father and mother’s senior citizen cards with restaurants including that restaurant we were at seven years ago. In fact, it’s smooth sailing when I hand my parents’ cards to the cashier; I only have to point to where they are if the cashier asks their whereabouts.

Asian noodles

senior citizens in the Philippines enjoy a discount with their meal | Image courtesy of rakratchada torsap at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Some places we frequent are senior citizen friendly (think generous discounts and friendliness), including how they accept the card/s when you’re paying. My favourite café Starbucks is very senior citizen friendly that my father is a big fan too that try and hang out as often as we can. The cashier doesn’t ask what the senior ate or drank, but s/he does inform you that there will be different transactions for the senior citizen-discountable drink and pastry, so you’re prepared to walk away with a few receipts. A bonus: the cashier smiles all throughout the interaction.

Another eatery that is senior citizen friendly is Dairy Queen at Robinson’s Magnolia mall. It was quite a generous discount off the banana split my mother ordered. Similarly, no questions asked about who’s going to eat it. Its neighbour Frutas, a juice and fruit shake stall, is also quite welcoming with the senior citizen card.

Ang Tunay ng Pancit Malabon on Timog Avenue in Quezon City simply accepts the card of my mother when we order a bilao (roughly translated as woven circular basket/tray) of pancit malabon sans the topping of crumbled pork crackers. The cashier though is more meticulous as she always asks my other to sign their record book and the receipt compared to Starbucks and Dairy Queen.

In terms of delivery service, two restaurants from the Max’s Group of Restaurants, Pancake House and Max’s, have embraced the senior citizen discount cards wholeheartedly. By this I mean you don’t have to remind them that you’ll be using the senior citizen cards of your parents. This is because once you’ve called for food delivery from either restaurant the details of the caller and the holders of the senior citizen cards are entered into their system thus the discounts are automatically applied to the bill. Thankfully, both restaurants don’t ask what the senior citizen is going to eat!

Using the senior citizen card seven years ago was short of excruciating  because my father – he was the only one with the card then – felt he had to prove he was a senior citizen and had to account for what he ate like a child. Seven years later, using the card has been a boon as it should be from the beginning. Both my parents just need to show their cards and they get the benefit they’re entitled to without having to explain themselves which they shouldn’t have in the first place.

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HAPPY PLACE

Some say the coffee isn’t the real deal especially if you’re a hard core coffee drinker. Others say it’s quite expensive for just a Frappuccino or hot latte. A handful find it a convenient spot for meeting up and there are those who find it a great place to work. Case in point is my gal-pal – we go way back in high school – Melie when we caught up with each other one weekend. She was working in Starbucks Greenbelt while waiting for me. Apparently, she learnt and revealed to me that one is more productive while working in a café. Working or meeting up with someone, hard core coffee drinker or not, Starbucks is my happy place.

Starbucks drinks_resized

a smile and a friendly note awaits you at Starbucks [Starbucks, Tomas Morato]

It all goes back to when I found myself living in a new country and walloped severely by homesickness, cultural isolation, and discrimination. It was my first time to be living apart from my family and the whole routine of being on my own was both exhilarating and unnerving, to say the least. On top of homesickness, I was culturally isolated – being a self-absorbed careerist wasn’t how I was raised to be. I didn’t believe in going up the ladder of success by stepping on others which put me greatly at odds with a whole lot of people. Then there’s my nationality that triggered my first experience of discrimination. The preconceived notion that Filipinos were only meant to be domestic helpers had preceded me unknowingly as well as all the stereotypes of being a woman that I thought had been deconstructed.

Starbucks, on hindsight, was the one place that I could piece back my fragmented self together quietly. Every single day was a battle against homesickness that left me weary and which was compounded by being treated as the peculiar one in the group to put it mildly. The Starbucks near my workplace then was a serendipitous find. There were no weird glances from the baristas to make you feel that you shouldn’t be in their country or any put-upon behaviour to take my order. It was just simple human decency: a simple warm greeting of “Good morning” or “Good afternoon” and what I would like to drink or eat that day. I didn’t have to constantly fear that someone was hatching a nefarious plan to make me the scape goat for their failure or put up with hypocrisy – you know when they smile at you and then stab you at the back minutes later. My visits to this Starbucks reached a point when I just showed up at the counter, exchanged pleasantries with the baristas which eventually became longer chit-chat that did wonders for my soul, and head to a table with my caramel macchiato. I didn’t need to say my name or my order anymore. A smile particularly one that goes beyond the lips and crinkles the eyes does have this energising effect on a person.

I’ve since relocated to another country where I’ve learnt to let my guard down and view humanity in a less jaded way. I still frequent Starbucks because it still remains my happy place; the baristas, store manager, and even the security guard still exude that affability which is more than welcomes. At Starbucks, I sew clumsily my tattered soul, chase away the negative thoughts gnawing on my thoughts, and glue back my shattered heart. It is also where I do most of my work, thinking of which stories to assign, new topics to write on, and new punishments for my students. Lastly, it is where I catch my breath after a tongue-on-the-floor workout with Pak Agus. I have a cup of no-sugar cappuccino or caramel macchiato with non-fat milk or soya when I remember to say it to the genial Starbucks barista.

FRAP HAPPINESS II

A different country, different speciality drinks at Starbucks – this is the Starbucks rule I managed to confirm on my Starbucks-hopping. Simply put, the US market had the loved-by-the consumers and hated-by-the baristas Unicorn Frappuccino, Indonesia is now tooting its counterpart of Popcorn Caramel Frappuccino. Meanwhile, in the Philippines, Starbucks is treating its loyal customers to two special flavors, one of which is the Roasted Smores Frappuccino. Apparently, this one is back due to popular demand.

Roasted Smores Frappuccino

The scorching heat – 35 degrees is normal temperature each day in Quezon City – was a strong impetus for me to get Roasted Smores Frappuccino (tall size only) and throw caution to the wind. I would worry about the calories later when I get to the gym. Truly frap happiness with each sip, which was far from my imagined saccharine taste. Nestled at the bottom of the ice-blended Frappuccino roast coffee beans were swirls of chocolate syrup reminiscent of the chocolate sauce for chocolate sundaes bonding with swathes of marshmallow. Topping the iced beverage is a whirl of whipped cream sprinkled with bits of graham crackers. It is not hard to grok that it is pure frap happiness: a sip of it is a sweet (not cloying), gooey, and chocolatey goodness that momentarily quells the searing summer heat and uplifts the sadness in one’s heart.

It is a sugar fest with the Roasted Smores Frap and sticky cinnamon bun. (Imperial Suites,Tomas Morato branch)

IN CHARACTER

It was one afternoon while unwinding at Starbucks at the new Grand Metropolitan Mall, upmarket sister mall of Metropolitan Mall, when I noticed a store banner was on the floor. A man had nearly sprawled on the ground because his foot got caught in one of the spines. Luckily, he didn’t. He looked at the banner, his forehead furrowed in a frown, and walked away. Was he mad at the banner? And that is when I decided to observe humanity. Will anyone be mindful and, without being feeling put upon, pick up banner and set it up right?

 

Something is not right here. The banner is down. What should we do?

Something is not right here. The banner is down. What should we do?

Back in elementary school, my class mates and I were drilled endlessly in being mindful of the people and surroundings. We, for instance, always had to throw our trash in the rubbish bin; we also had to pick up the litter that we see and throw it in the bin. We acknowledged someone when we see them in the hallway by smiling and saying, “Hello” or “Good morning”. Naturally, when someone is carrying too many things, we’d offer help carry some. And when someone is injured, we’d rush to get the school nurse from the clinic.

A security guard walked on by. He was oblivious to the fallen banner.

Being mindful became second nature to us. It was part of our character. We didn’t need to be reminded all the time because parents and teachers were also mindful of good behaviour and right conduct. The adults had character too. There was cooperation between parents and teachers – if teachers took care of the children’s behaviour outside of the home, parents were undeniably in charge with the home front. Apparently, that cooperation has long since disappeared and the children have been left to wallow in the abyss of ignorance, which, at times, turns into a feeling of entitlement. Being mindful is now a thing of the past, which has resulted in my having to give a lecture every now and then on the concept of good character (read: being mindful) in between English lessons. Admittedly, it becomes tiring and frustrating because children seem to have been born with short-term memory and there doesn’t seem to be any support from the home front.

A throng of people chattering away missed the banner by a few centimetres. The banner still remained on the floor.

The reason given for unmindful is “Times are changing”. This statement has become the convenient answer for anything going wrong in the world. Times are changing, indeed, but it seems to be an ineffectual excuse for anyone with an iota of intelligence to use to cover up for one’s ineptitude and the utter lack of mindfulness. Is there a correlation between changing times and forgetting good behaviour? Are changing times a license to become boorish?

Two employees from an eatery in the mall spotted the banner on the floor. I thought they would solve the little problem. The other, pointing at the banner, nudged his colleague as if telling to pick it up. He simply gawked at it then they walked out of the mall.

My training kicked in. I stepped out of Starbucks and picked up the banner, setting it up right to greet would-be customers. Back to my Asian Dolce Latte and Dickens, I could see the smiling faces of my parents and teachers from JASMS. There is simply no excuse not to keep in character, not to be mindful.

It doesn't take much to be mindful and keep things in the right place.

It doesn’t take much to be mindful and keep everything in the right place.

CAFE RUN

While others have this urgent need to harvest their pumpkins which they planted together with the Smurfs, I have to have my café run, a habit that developed when I was living in the Garden City. Starbucks or Coffee Bean Tea Leaf was my refuge from the alienation, dislocation, loneliness etc that were building up inside and could be momentarily quelled by a hot drink. It was also my spot for marking papers (no one chased me away) and a meeting venue with close acquaintances and friends (it’s hard to miss). The crew I knew way back then was pleasant, their bonhomie disposition so infectious that I’d forget all the agitations of the day.

My favourite cuppa tea – genmaicha

Café run in Jakarta lends itself solely to Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf. It’s to assuage my feelings of deprivation with the absence of a Coffee Bean outlet in Kalimalang, which is definitely pro-Starbucks and pro-J CO area. Like in Starbucks but not like Starbucks, I have a cup of hot genmaicha. I like how the roasted rice taste lingers on the tongue and disappears without leaving an awful taste in the mouth. It’s a neat and smooth sip, and, trite as it may sound, all is fine in my world.

Indulging the sugar craving at Starbucks

It’s my me-time where I sip my favourite hot drink and bite into my current favourite cake. Starbucks is a de facto café for my café run in Bekasi being the only one in the area. Order of the day is a tall mug of green tea with granny apple pie or chocolate avocado mousse or the popular red velvet cake. The crew is very pleasing, which is quite refreshing as it’s not every day I can engage in pleasant repartee and not trip all over my tongue because of my meagre knowledge of Bahasa Indonesia. Located in Metropolitan Mall, Starbucks is a complete haven when the afternoon crowd has not yet streamed in. Its comfortable sofa chairs invite the bookworm, tempting her to sink in and get lost in her book with the mellow music wafting overhead. The serene ambience for reading, unwinding or simple people-watching lasts until the smokers troop in for their café run – coffee with a fag – which is my signal to leave and head on for home.

COFFEE BREAK

It’s one reason why I miss Singapore to a certain degree. I can walk down Orchard Road and find a little corner in Starbucks for my caramel macchiato or green tea or green tea frappuccino and let the world pass by. I’m not a real coffee drinker like other people I know but I like the momentary solitude sitting in Starbucks gives me amidst the cacophony of the blender whirring, the cashier shouting out the orders to the barista and the general din of the bevy of people chatting away and the sounds of hand phones while sipping my fave drink.

It’s different in Bekasi, Indonesia. Thank goodness for the one Starbucks at Metropolitan Mall but, unfortunately, the barista experiences a lot of mood swings so the drinks are not up to Starbucks quality (read: watery and bland) . Let’s not forget the smoking customers who have perfected the art of indifference, marring the solitude and purity of the air, and disturbing my peace. The branches in Jakarta, like in Plaza Senayan, are a welcome respite from the dearth of my favorite watering hole, rude smokers and the lackluster array of snacks-on-sale.

The Starbucks at Soekarno-Hatta airport is a good pit stop before heading to the departure lounge despite the warm temperature. I always get a drink before walking down to the lounge to wait for my flight. It’s an idiosyncrasy that I can’t let go – it’s a nice break from the tedium I know I’m heading for in waiting for the flight (delayed flights are not far from common).

A pit stop at the Starbucks at the airport in Bali is a good way to jump start a short weekend getaway especially if you land a few hours after sunrise. There’s no rush to get anywhere anyway so sipping a drink can be a very leisurely activity till you feel you’re ready to climb into the cab and head to your villa.