Try it. Who knows, you may even like it.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Drivers who must have that cup of coffee

Let’s talk about the purchase of a cup of coffee. Is it true that the drive-through window concept was designed for people who are just too lazy to park the car and walk into the store and order a cup of coffee to go, and then, well...go?
Of course it’s true. What other explanation could there be? These must be people who shun exercise, and who would be likely to define walking from the car to the coffee counter as being too much exertion. They far prefer sitting in their car for 10-12 minutes, patiently waiting in line in the parking lot---or in many cases the adjacent street---to buy a cup of coffee and, most likely, a doughnut.
That’s their choice, of course, but we need to analyze the options and compare the results.
The coffee purveyors have developed a huge following of such people, patient and compliant people, willing to wait what must often seem an interminable interval, as the cars crawl slowly toward the transaction point. I actually know people who engage in that practice on a regular basis, but I see nothing to be gained by naming names.
Look around. We all know individuals like this, people of seemingly normal behavioral patterns and average (or above) intelligence, who willingly join at the end of a long line. The coffee lines are everywhere. You notice them at any hour, but especially in the morning and at noon, fouling up traffic patterns in parking lots and spilling over onto the streets.
Coffee has tremendous cachet these days. It is approaching the status of wine. We all have experienced the wine snobs, those who deftly swirl the wine in the glass, inhale the bouquet, sip very precisely, and then either bless or damn the vintage in a very cool and professional manner. I enjoy listening to people like that, people who believe they have educated their palates to the highest level of pretentiousness.
That same attitude has seized control of the coffee urn. I know I shouldn’t say urn, because the urn is almost a vestige of forgotten times, times when the crew at the luncheonette would take turns rinsing the works, tossing in a new bag of coffee, and brewing a quantity of what was lovingly called “joe,” as in “A cup of joe.” Coffee was a major item in those places and presumably the proprietors regarded it as a profit maker, a product that attracted customers inside the store, where they might be tempted to make another purchase.
My own record with coffee is probably about average for the time, introduced to its regular use sometime in my late teens, but never one to become a true aficionado. I have nothing against coffee. I enjoy coffee, but it will never play an important role in my life. I have no argument with the price of coffee in the upscale coffee houses, either, as long as somebody else is buying.
This is not a coffee article. This is about people who will wait in line in their car, often on a daily basis, in order to get a cup of coffee, either for consumption in the car or at another destination. While some psychologists might praise them for developing a patient, unstressed approach which could contribute to their longevity, I don’t understand them being so willing to waste time waiting so long for just a cup of coffee.
I am not an efficiency freak or a time study expert. But I am willing to submit the following evidence for consideration, based upon an investigation conducted as part of a personal fact-finding mission. On a recent day, observing the typical line of drivers waiting for coffee at one of the usual locations, I decided to act. I drove into the lot, found a spot at the end of the parking area, a good distance from the shop, and walked across the lot, while noticing a beige Lexus, a maroon Ford SUV and a white Toyota Camry in the line, midway between the end and the beginning.
I didn’t even want any coffee, but I ordered a cup anyway, was served, paid the bill, and exited. I then peeked around the corner of the building and spotted the Lexus, Ford and Toyota, still waiting.
Patience was long ago elevated from the status of a characteristic to the rank of a virtue. For those who feel the need to practice their patient behavior, there must be no better way than sitting in a car, waiting in line to buy a cup of coffee.

Regarding job opportunities for recent graduates

By Dick Hirsch
Although I’m not now in the market for a new job, at this time of the year it’s always interesting to familiarize yourself with the opportunities being offered to graduating college seniors.
I’ve just reviewed a brief list of some of the most promising prospects among entry level positions in the current job market, and it prompted an ambivalent reaction. On the one hand, I’m pleased that there seem to be such good opportunities in what is widely regarded as a difficult economy.
On the other hand, it’s discouraging to find that there are so many good possibilities for those who can very confidently add columns of figures, compute percentages in their heads, and enjoy the intricacies generally associated with that side of the brain associated with dismal mathematical specialties.
I know that economics has been called the dismal science, but for me, it was always math, starting with long division and proceeding through algebra, geometry, trigonometry and calculus. I was hoping there would be some signs of progress for those persons, such as myself, who could write a complete paragraph without strain, or compose a sales letter that has an enthusiastic timbre that is obvious to the recipients.
But, no, I saw nothing to encourage any students who prefer words to numbers, except, perhaps, a teaching job, which had by far the lowest starting salary. Anyone who reads the papers knows that teachers are doing much better these days, and the comment about teaching noted: “The work can be very rewarding and can offer great retirement benefits.” Who among the graduates is thinking about retirement benefits at the age of 21? It adds: “Continue your education to the masters or doctorate level and watch your pay grow!”
In addition to teaching, the list contained eight other occupational areas, with a brief comment on each job sector and an approximate salary range. Those numbers always overcome me with a melancholy feeling because if someone had been willing to pay me that much money when I had just received my diploma, I would have been very suspicious of their motives. I also would not have known what to do with the money. I was delighted to be paid $84 a week in my first full time job, especially when my pay had been $45 the summer before as an intern.
From my current vantage point, my view of that pay scale remains the same now as it was then. I was a bargain. In fact, no bragging intended, I’ve always been a bargain.
On the way to the office today, I stopped to fill up my tank. Need I report that it cost me $45, which was more than any of us could have afforded in those days? It is more than many of us can afford now. Fewer people are filling up today, according to a friend of mine in the retail gasoline business. They are buying ten or fifteen dollars worth of gas; it won’t get them that far, but instead of driving to their favorite pizza parlor, they’ll adjust and try the neighborhood place.
The list enumerates a number of areas of opportunity. The one that I find most compelling is simply called “Consulting.” That attracted me for two reasons: First, it is the highest paying prospect on the short list, and next, what kind of advice can an employer expect to get from a consultant who has just finished taking his final exams? The average starting salary is listed at $50,460, and interested grads are advised as follows: “This is another area where your degree or emphasis can lead to a rewarding career in a variety of areas. For instance, a bachelor’s degree in Health Administration can put you on the road to a successful career in health care consulting.”
That may be an accurate statement. Most people would agree that the health care system needs improvement, so perhaps it can use another consultant. As my old friend, George, once explained to me, “A consultant is a man who, when you ask him the time, he looks at your watch, tells you the time, and then sends you a bill.”
The other job areas are: private accounting, public accounting, financial/treasury analysis, design/construction engineering, project engineering, sales, and management trainee. The salaries are in the mid-40s, except for the sales person and the trainee, with the starting point around $38,000.
Polish up those resumes, guys and gals. Gosh, when I grow up I think I’ll be a consultant.