By Dave Fox

I was in a big hurry this morning, or this never would have happened. Normally, I would not have run across the street to Safeway to buy a latte from the Starbucks inside. Normally, I would have walked the extra half-block to my favorite independent coffeehouse.

Bronwyn is the friendly owner of Wayward Coffee. She knows I’m lactose intolerant. She knows when I walk in the door that I need soy milk in my latte.

She knows this because up until a few years ago, I would always order tea. I had never tasted soy milk before. For reasons I am no longer sure of, the concept of soy milk skeezed me out.

Then, one life-altering day, Bronwyn said to me, “Dave, why don’t you try a soy latte?” She even promised not to charge me if I didn’t like it. But I liked it. I’ve been drinking soy milk ever since.

So normally, I turn to Wayward Coffee for my caffeine needs. But I was running late for a meeting this morning, and nursing a minor foot injury on top of that. The Safeway Starbucks was closer and quicker. I cheated on Bronwyn. I went to Starbucks.

“I’d like a soy latte, please,” I said to the Starbucks barista.

“Sorry,” she said. “I can’t make you a soy latte today. We just ran out of soy milk.”

“Oh,” I said, feeling dejected. “I guess I’ll have to go without.”

I started shuffling out the door, pondering a morning without caffeine. Then a little voice popped into my head. Little voices do that from time to time. This particular little voice said to me, “Hang on, Dave. This is a grocery store. A really gigantic grocery store. A grocery store that is so gigantic, they actually have two different soy milk departments in two different parts of the store.”

“Hey,” I thought. “You’re right, Little Voice Inside My Head! This is a grocery store! They do have soy milk for sale here… about 17 feet away from where we’re standing!”

Just to be certain, I went to check. Because sometimes the little voices inside my head can’t be trusted. But this little voice was absolutely right! They did have soy milk for sale! Fourteen different brands and flavors to choose from! (I counted.)

I walked back to the Starbucks counter.

“Excuse me,” I said. “I don’t mean to be a rabble-rouser, but, well, I just looked, and there are approximately 600 gallons of soy milk for sale in aisle four. Just so you know.”

“Yeah,” the barista said. “But we can’t use it. We’re only allowed to use Starbucks soy milk.”

Really, Starbucks? You have your own brand of soy milk? And you think your soy milk is superior to all other brands of soy milk? You think your soy milk is so superior that it’s better to deprive a customer with a food allergy of caffeine than to feed him a latte with allegedly inferior soy milk?

Hey, Safeway! You know what? Starbucks says your soy milk sucks! They say it’s not okay to serve your soy milk! What do you think about THAT, Safeway?

Yeah, Safeway! I know! You let them hang out in your store, and this is what you get! They act all friendly to your face. They’re all like, “Yo, dawg, let’s have a cooperative business partnership.” But then they talk smack about your soy milk behind your back! Are you gonna take that, Safeway? Are you gonna just let them demean your perfectly good soy milk and make trouble for your lactose-intolerant customers?

I would not take that if I were you, Safeway. Seriously. I think you should go kick Starbucks’s ass.

As for you, Starbucks, I’m thinking I might have to look into some ADA issues here. Is it even legal to deprive a customer with a certifiable medical condition of a soy latte, when there is perfectly fine soy milk a few steps away?

And another thing! What’s with this so-called “two-percent milk” you’re always selling people? What the hell is the other 98 percent made of?

To Bronwyn and Wayward Coffee, I say this: I am deeply sorry for my close call with infidelity this morning. I feel so, so dirty. Please forgive me. Please. It is your soy lattes I love the most. I’ve always said you have better soy milk than that skank, Starbucks, down the road. I don’t know what came over me this morning. But I don’t love Starbucks. And obviously, Starbucks doesn’t love me.


[Photo: Yuko Honda]

Published on Tuesday, September 21, 2010

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