my personal blog

May 13, 2008

Overheard: The Contagiousness of Cancer

Filed under: humor — Tags: , , , , , — Alfonso Surroca @ 11:24 pm

I work remotely, and often find myself working from Starbucks. Normally, I’ve got my Zune pumping (thank you noise-canceling headphones), but today, I was enjoying the Eighties mix the store had going. That was, until the sound was drowned out by the endless chattering of two soccer moms perched right next to where I was sitting. It was all worth it, for the most ignorant thing I’ve heard in a long time.

Soccer Mom #1: “blah blah blah we visited so-and-so who is getting chemo”

Soccer Mom #2: “Oh, I’m worried about visiting (so-and-so). I’m worried I might get cancer”

Soccer Mom #1: [WTF expression]

Soccer Mom #1: “Cancer is a growth in your body. It’s not contagious!”

[Hearing someone worry about catching cancer as one catches a cold was hilarious enough, but this lady wasn’t done yet.]

Soccer Mom #2: “…well, I heard they have people with AIDS there too. I don’t want to get AIDS!”

April 14, 2008

Remembering the D.C. Starbucks Murders

Filed under: personal,thoughts,work — Tags: , , , , , , , , — Alfonso Surroca @ 10:34 am

With so much tragedy in the world, it’s easy to become jaded, and unless you can identify with a particular story, these tragedies are easy to ignore. The only news story that’s ever haunted me was the triple-murder at a Starbucks in D.C. that happened during the summer of 1997.

The other day, I saw an episode of Murder by the Book on Tru TV about the Georgetown murders, and it gave me chills. I’ve seen so many crime dramas, and watched so many documentaries on crimes on Discovery Channel, TLC, etc. that I never even associate with the victims—I associate with the cops and forensic investigators every time. What makes this case so different? Starbucks.


June 25, 2005

2 oz

Filed under: rants,work — Tags: , , , — Alfonso Surroca @ 2:26 pm

I happened across this complaint at,

I just got back from the Starbucks at the Briarwood Mall in Ann Arbor, Michigan. I ordered a grande cappuccino with a shot of vanilla.

For my $3.45 I got a 16 oz cup with 7oz of coffee and 8 spoons of foam. Talk about expensive coffee.

Just how much coffee should you get when you order a grande? It would seem to me that you should get something close to 16 oz.

I will not be going to Starbucks again.

This is a complaint we get at Starbucks quite frequently.

First, I should note the common misconception that a beverage such as a latte or a cappuccino is just “coffee”. The espresso contained in your average coffee beverage is typically only 1-2 oz. In this person’s case, it’s 2 oz., or only 1/8 of the composition of the beverage. Whether or not the coffee itself is expensive is irrelevant because the espresso might account for literally pennies. The cost of the milk in the beverage is considerably more than the coffee. That’s why you can go to a cafeteria Cubana here in Miami and get about 2 oz. of espresso for somewhere around $.75. Because 2 oz. of espresso costs pennies.

Now, we’ve started with a 16 oz. beverage. Subtract the 2 oz. of espresso, and we’re at 14 oz. Take away the serving of vanilla syrup, and we’re left to account for 13 oz. This 13 oz. is foamed milk, poured such that once settled, it should be about half milk and half foam. This means the 7 oz. of milk and 6 oz. of foam in this example sound about right.

To answer this misguided consumer’s question, 2 oz. A 16 oz. cappuccino from Starbucks contains 2 oz. of espresso.

A final note: A cappuccino made in the authentic Italian style, e.g. a purist’s cappuccino, is only about 1.5 oz of espresso, with roughly the same amount of foamed milk, e.g. small enough to be served in a demitasse. The modern rule of thumb, however, is 1/3 espresso, 2/3 foamed milk.

May 14, 2005

The 400 Drinks

Filed under: humor,rants,work — Tags: , — Alfonso Surroca @ 1:43 pm

This Friday morning, I had an annoying shift, and chose to pass the bile on in the standard way any Starbucks barista does, by giving our customers decaffeinated coffee. Unlike fast food workers, Starbucks partners are more passive aggressive in their methods. We do not spit in people´s drinks, I assure you, under any circumstances. Instead, we press the decaf button, which is directly adjacent to its caffeinated equivalent. Throughout the morning, I estimate I made about 400 drinks. Let´s think for a moment about the potential ramifications.

Our morning customers consist mostly of suits running to work. Doctors, lawyers, paper-pushers of all sorts. These customers depend on their morning caffeine jolt to survive the morning and mid morning until they can come back to Starbucks for a lunch break fix. They are faithful, like crack addicts. And let´s not think for a moment that caffeine is that different from crack, because I assure you, these people are addicted. Imagine for a moment a crack addict without his fix. Now, dress him in a suit or her in a dress and designer heels. Give him or her a manicure and a classy hair style. Now, affix a Bluetooth hands-free cellular phone earpiece to this person’s ear. Now you’ve got a solid picture of the owners of these 400 drinks.

400 doctors, lawyers, paper-pushers, and gofers, real-estate brokers, pharmaceutical reps, nurses, and coders. 400 suits of all sorts using caffeine like a crutch to get them through their mornings until they can return to their nearest Starbucks during their lunch break for another fix. During the morning, these 400 would find themselves lacking that pick me up they usually get. They would find themselves forced to run to the office Folgers, burned to a crisp and as clear as tea, filled to the brim with dusty powdered cream and granulated white sugar. They would soon find that this remnant of pre-Starbucks workplace society would not cut it.

The lawyers likely fell behind, just a little bit, on the research for their cases, and this forced them to call their spouses once again to tell them they’d be coming home late. Perhaps one, just one, called one time too many, that one time required to finally instill the suspicion of an affair. Perhaps that last cup of decaf coffee was the last straw needed to break this marriage’s back and land this lawyer in the nasty legal mess of divorce. The paper-pushers missed their Friday afternoon deadlines, and that was enough for them to stay on the spot enough for their bosses, in that Lumbergh drone, to catch them and “ask” them to come in on Saturday morning. Perhaps one of these paper-pushers was going to go out Friday night, and hang out at the beach Saturday, he’d been waiting all week for this release, and now, he’ screwed. The computer coders might have missed a line or two here and there in their rush to get out and search for another cup of Starbucks. Perhaps the one bug this coder missed in his sleepy state will grow to be a security hole in the next release of the banking software being released six months from now. Hackers will find and exploit this hole, and bank accounts from banks using this software will find themselves cleaned out. The company making this software will find themselves in that nasty legal mess of being sued.

Maybe I did end a marriage, ruin someone’s weekend, or make some hacker rich. Maybe one of these suits fell asleep at the wheel on the I-95. Who knows, maybe one of these 400 suits lost his job, and the guy in the next cubicle got it instead. And perhaps this guy in the next cubicle deserved it better, but the one who came to my store and unwittingly got decaf was just a better ass-kisser. Either way, you really can’t know what happens once you throw your action into the lake, you can’t see the ripple effect. And more than likely, you’re acting out in part as the result of someone else’s action as well. I know I was. Maybe if I didn’t have to work Friday, or if it hadn’t been that busy, or if the coworker who failed to come on time had, who knows?

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