Connection Comedy

02/24/2009 By Shawn Burns

I’m sitting in a Starbucks. (Is there an apostrophe anywhere in the name? I don’t see one on any of the signage. But I’ve always thought of it as "the coffee shop that belongs to Starbuck", so it’s strange for me to think of there being no apostrophe. It makes it look like they offer starbucks, some pluralization of "starbuck", for sale. "Gitchyor starbucks yere! Frish starbucks! Straight off the starbucks boat!")

I’m sitting in a Starbucks despite my aversion to coffee in general and Starbucks in particular because I felt like sitting somewhere that wasn’t my office for a little while. I wanted to be able to open my laptop and finally use that T-Mobile pre-paid card I’ve had in my wallet since the BlogHer conference in July of last year (that should show you how uninterested I am in entering Starbucks’. Starbuckses?)

I entered the fine establishment on California Avenue in Palo Alto about 15 minutes ago to mingle with the moms from the running club, people writing in their spiral notebooks, other laptop folks, and the dilapidated old hooker who has been fascinating me for 10 minutes. She’s really amazing to see.

I purchased a Vitamin Water, because I don’t drink coffee. I paid $1.85 for it. I prefer to buy them by the case for less than a dollar each, but I suppose the other eighty-five cents is for atmosphere. See "dilapidated old hooker" above.

I sat down on one of the available cushy chairs. The only one. It’s right by the front door. I think the dilapidated old hooker is coming over now and she’s going to be able to see what I’m writing about her. Wait for it….

Nope. She went out the side door. She has places to go, trailing a small carry-on bag on wheels behind her. I think she had some boxes earlier. I don’t know where they went. But wherever they are, the getting of them to that destination inspired in her a need for a coffee. I don’t understand coffee.

Anyway, I sat down, pulled out my wallet with my T-Mobile card in it, removed the card, and opened my laptop. I looked for a T-Mobile network on the list of wireless servers and I didn’t see one.

But there was AT&T, shining full at me in green bar glory. I looked around, at the decals on the door to the Starbucks, and I saw that there was no T-Mobile decal anywhere. Just AT&T. What the hell, Starbuck’s? When did that happen? Not that I’ve been paying close attention, but my pre-paid T-Mobile card from July of 2008 clearly lists Starbuckses as locations where I might find wi-fi sustenance.

Well. I was here. I had an open laptop. I thought I might want to try to write a story about the shoe-mania affecting the little girls at Erin’s daycare: Erin knows who belongs to every shoe in the place, and if someone abandons his or her shoes somewhere Erin announces "Erin turn!!" and slips them on her feet. This behavior got her ribs gnawed on by a "mine mine mine" girl yesterday, while I was standing two feet away. I’ll call her "Tara." Erin’s pathetic, betrayed sobs broke my heart and had me wondering, a little, what I’d have done if it were a dog, and not Tara, that had done that to her. I think this just proves that I really do think children are different from dogs, in many important and significant ways. Last night, as we were driving home from dinner at the Olive Garden (I love the Olive Garden), Erin offered, softly, from the backseat: "I no like it Tara." Word, kid. You have TBC ribs: Tara Been Chewed.

Wanting to tell a story I connected to the AT&T network, and opened up a browser to go through the connection/signup/pay money rigmarole. It was $3. Three dollars to write a story? Was it worth it? Ah, but look up in the top right corner of the webpage: "If you have a roaming account with another carrier, please select from the drop-down menu." T-Mobile was on the list. I didn’t know if I had a roaming account. Actually, I was pretty sure I didn’t have an account at all. So, I plotted, I’d set up an account with T-Mobile, then connect to AT&T here in this Starbucks using my new T-Mobile account.

I opened a new browser page to carry out my plan and went looking for T-Mobile’s web page. I located it, navigated to the "new account" page, opened an account, entered my pre-paid card number, and then closed the window. I went back to the AT&T page, selected T-Mobile from the drop-down menu of roaming carriers, and entered my account information. Voila! Internet at Starbucks.I could now navigate to pages other than this silly AT&T page and explore the internet a little.

I’d like you to re-read that last paragraph again.

Then I’d like you wonder, along with me, why I am so stupid. The old, dilapidated hooker with her boxes and her carry-on has it all figured out: deliver boxes, get coffee, go do something else that isn’t completely, utterly, and totally redundant.