Chipping away at the 401K
September 8, 2008
It’s 6:35 a.m., Monday morning. I’m next in line at Starbucks, salivating like Pavlov’s dog.
I drove here on autopilot, I think, in my “shock-value green” Mazda. It’s even greener than people think: 40 MPG without a drop of ethanol. Still, like everyone, I squawk about high gasoline prices, not $32-a-gallon coffee.
“Tall Gazebo, no room,” the guy in front of me says. He fumbles through his oversized wallet and gripes about his fledgling $15-a-share Starbucks stock. “Not my fault. I get coffee here every day,” he mumbles.
Tall Gazebo just made my morning. I sold my SBUX at $30 a share, then reinvested, thanks to my militant financial guru. Her next project? Deep sixing my daily Starbucks budget.
“Three-dollar lattes, are you insane? Buy stocks, bonds, IRAs instead. You could own your own island at the age of 55,” she says, waiving a spreadsheet in my face, sipping a cup of decaf office-blend. Behind her desk, a framed Socrates quote hangs on the wall: “Be as you wish to seem” it says.
Her Socrates, like her morning brew, is watered down ” not even in the same ballpark as “know thyself.” I know myself. I know that …I … must … have … coffee soon, and if Gazebo Boy doesn’t cough up his gift card in the next 30 seconds, I’m gonna’ fling him and his man purse right out the door.
Just before Socrates and I call down the thunder, Gazebo Boy comes through. The cashier charges his card, then cranks her neck 90 degrees and calls in the order.
“Tall Gazebo, no room.”
“What?” her coworker, the barista (drink preparer), asks.
“Tall Gazebo, no room.”
“Tall Gazebo, no room,” the barista repeats in a Gregorian monotone.
After hearing the Gazebo chant for a fifth time, my caffeine-depleted brain prematurely jumpstarts.
“Tall Gazebo, no room,” I announce, cupping my hands like a megaphone, turning to the zombies in line behind me.
Still prisoners of the morning fog, they stare back blankly, completely unenlightened, until one lady snorts, and pandemonium ensues: smirks, raised eyebrows, laughter induced coughing, people suddenly hanging up their cell phones. Chaos.
“Don’t make me hop the counter,” the cashier fires back, eyeballing me. She hands Gazebo Boy his fix, then gets down to business. “The usual?”
“No. I feel like something special,” I say, rubbing my hands. “How about an iced grande, half-caf Americano, 2 squirts of vanilla, no water, extra ice, with room?”
The zombies behind me are buzzing again.
Black marker in hand, the cashier feverishly scribbles coffee adjectives all over a plastic cup instead of calling back my order. The barista just glares at me, purses her lips, and cocks her head. That’s when I first noticed her star-shaped “Legendary Service Pin” (on her green apron).
“Did you get my order?” I ask with a smirk.
“Yeah, I got it. You want a cup of spit.”
The zombies yuck it up.
“You’re good!” I say, admitting I’ve been bested, convinced that Socrates, too, would agree. “There’s that legendary service …”
Strange. Laughing on Monday morning. Who would’ve thunk it? Not wanting it to end, I splurged and bought my financial advisor a Caramel Macchiato Frappaccino.
She’s never had one. I’m sure of it. Too expensive. It will be sitting on her desk in 10 minutes, testing her resolve. One sip of the foo foo and Little Miss Office-Blend Gibraltar is toast. Her retirement plan ruined … at least that’s what I’m shooting for.
And this time, the last laugh will be mine.
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