June 15, 2005

You keep stabbing yourself in the neck

Filed under: Literati and Cognoscenti — tomemos @ 2:14 pm

Finals time again… The English class I taught this quarter ended on Monday. I haven’t really been discussing it much here–I’m getting cagier about mentioning classes as they happen–but it went really well, I think. Students took part in class discussions, papers were rich and interesting. It was really a lot of fun to teach, and I had the twin pleasureable experiences of learning a lot about the texts we studied, and showing off my vast and total knowledge of literature. I think the students enjoyed it, too, but I’ll have to wait to see what evaluations look like.

(By the way, in the interests of fairness: remember all that crowing I did about my great teacher evaluations from fall quarter? Yeah, well, I got my evals from winter, and leave us say there was some regression: I scored below average in nine out of the fifteen categories. Usually not far below average, but still. I remember noticing that my class seemed sort of brooding last quarter, but it didn’t occur to me that I would reap the results of that.)

Speaking of teaching, I overheard a discouraging conversation the other night. I was at Starbucks the other night, getting some coffee to keep me going on a paper. It being finals week, the place was packed with undergrads. Two women in front of me, one with a sorority shirt, were talking about their studies.

“Are you studying for finals?” the first one asked.

“Oh my god–I’ve been studying all day, and I’m going to be studying all night,” her friend (the one with the Greek shirt) said.

“Me too–working on the essays, you know.” I’m pretty sure she said essays. I thought, Hey–maybe they’re studying for a composition class. I started listening more carefully.

“Who’s your T.A.?” asked the woman with the sorority shirt. My ears perked up; maybe it was one of my friends?

The first woman hesitated. “The weird one who’s really smart,” she said, gesturing vaguely.

Her friend nodded. “I have the other one.”

The weird one who’s really smart? The other one? Keep in mind this is the end of the quarter. Do they not even know their teachers’ names? Plus, “the weird one who’s really smart”? That is not descriptive. That is, like, every grad student I’ve met.

So yeah, it turns out students don’t always learn their T.A.’s names. Okay. I guess this means that the student who e-mailed me at the end of my first quarter teaching and called me “Mr. Hitcher” might have actually been in a higher percentile than I thought.

The other horrifying thing I heard those girls say was in regards to the coffee she was ordering. You have to understand, I’m a purist in regards to coffee orders. I always order a “caffe latte,” never simply a “latte.” (What it is, I once ordered a “latte” in an Italian cafΓ© and was served a mug of steamed milk.) So it was bad enough that everyone in that Starbucks had caved totally in regards to sizes (people! Order a large! Do not order a “venti!” Tall is not small!), but I also learned that some people actually abbreviate “frappucino” as “frap.” The girl in front of me ordered a “Tall Frap.” It was the most Southern California moment of my time here so far.

Also, did you know that there’s a Starbucks Visa card now? It’s called the “Duetto.”



  1. Sometimes it is just easier to play their game. Under caffinated and shelling out over two bucks for a cup of coffee, you are already whipped—ride the wave, small is tall, tall is venti, and medium is now grande (because grande is venti).
    And the dueto has been out for over a year. Now please don’t tell me that Starfucks is the only place to get a decent cup of coffee in your town.

    Comment by AM — June 15, 2005 @ 8:36 pm

  2. Yes, it is–in my town. There are others within a twenty-minute drive, but when you’ve got a deadline that’s an unaffordable luxury. This is reason #71 that Irvine is the Shittiest College Town In America.

    Re the Duetto: I guess I don’t keep up with the world of coffee/personal finances? No, the truth is, I almost never go to that Starbucks. Only for emergencies.

    Comment by Tom — June 16, 2005 @ 2:45 am

  3. If you are lucky, you will have a Bel Air or a Raleys or a Nob Hill Foods. Inside these is a place where coffee is made. It is Java City. It is the best.

    Also, maybe the “Mr. Hicher” guy was somehow related to Joe Forte. Hmm…

    Comment by kindle — June 16, 2005 @ 5:58 am

  4. They have Starbucks here in Greece, for coffee Nazis who aren’t willing to stomach Nescafe for two weeks, I guess.

    (But, really, people who can stomach Starbucks shouldn’t pretend to be coffee connoisseurs. Seriously.)

    Comment by locks — June 16, 2005 @ 11:35 am

  5. all coffe is gross. it is only good as a means of trasporting caffine and must be drowned in cream and sugar and other yummy flavors. now chai, thats a gift from the gods. i choose to assume from this post and resulting comments that all my friends and their families in the strange land of the shaking earth out west are safe and sound. keep it that way. πŸ™‚

    Comment by ariela — June 17, 2005 @ 7:50 am

  6. Starbucks coffee is quite decent – even for connoisseurs. That ain’t the problem, obviously. We all know the problem(s) so I won’t get into them.

    Tom, I also refuse to order “talls” or “grandes.” I order small and medium on the rare occasions I go. And though I’ve never ordered a venti, for the sake of my stomach, I am pretty amused that they have bothered to trademark it. Theres a little fucking circled ‘r’ next to the word! You can just trademark a foreign word???

    Comment by Bret! — June 17, 2005 @ 12:10 pm

  7. I dunno about the connoisseur thing, I ain’t one. I save my snobbery for beer. The only exception is that I regard flavored coffee with revulsion. Does anyone order caramel wine?

    Ariela: Chai reached the States via the “strange land of the shaking earth” (absolutely our new state nickname). I was buying chai from sidewalk stands in Berkeley before most of the country knew what a cappucino was.

    Comment by Tom — June 17, 2005 @ 1:22 pm

  8. Starbucks trademarked Frappuccino, which is a totally made up word. Other coffee places have had to come up with alternative names, but they all sound silly. Java City calls theirs the “Javalanche”. I cringe whenever I order it.

    Comment by kindle — June 18, 2005 @ 6:10 am

  9. cafe freeze at Borders cafe, way better than the frap-ice chips the size of your head-achino

    Also, your college town is far less shitty than the college town with no starbucks (champaign-urbana, if you are curious— the capital of the suckiverse)

    Comment by AM — June 18, 2005 @ 11:42 pm

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