The Starbucks archipelago

2012-03-23

in Geek stuff, Internet matters, Travel

For a person on the move, the world’s countless Starbucks locations provide a lot of very useful infrastructure. They provide caffeine, wireless internet access (even at night when they are closed), a place to sit, bathrooms, electrical outlets, and tolerable food. Their bagels with cream cheese are affordable, reasonably filling, and not spectacularly unhealthy when consumed in moderation.

Starbucks has been key for me on a great many trips. For instance, when I was in Washington D.C. photographing the Keystone XL protests. It is especially useful and important when I am traveling somewhere where Fido’s data roaming rates are evil. I can orient myself with Google Maps, make calls with Skype, check email, upload images to Flickr, and update websites all through the glory of Starbucks WiFi – and all while keeping my iPhone safely in ‘airplane mode’. And it can all be done with the accompaniment of a half-litre of highly caffeinated brew.

In Oxford, Starbucks locations were part of my meandering reading system. I generally can’t just sit in one place for hours and pay attention to the documents in front of me. I do much better when moving periodically from place to place: from one library to another to a Starbucks and on to a different library. If I do start a PhD, I will probably resume similarly peripatetic habits when dealing with large volumes of reading material.

Just as coaling stations were once essential support infrastructure for coal-fired ocean-going ships, the vast scattering of near-identical Starbucks locations around the world provide the necessities of life for those away from home everywhere. If they just added some coffin hotel style sleeping berths, there would be no real need to rely on any other businesses when visiting a strange city.

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Milan March 23, 2012 at 12:46 pm

Milan April 29, 2012 at 2:04 pm

Another virtue of the Starbucks archipelago: unlimited free refills of drip coffee in store.

oleh April 30, 2012 at 12:00 am

I was not aware of the free unlimited drip coffees. Does this also apply to any size. In that case, not only would there be a saving, but if I had an extended stay in one, I could benefit from hot and fresh coffee.

I am still drawn to non-Starbuck locations. In Vancouver and its North Shore, I am drawn to Delaney`s started by Robin Delaney who lives in our neighbourhood. There are 5 locations (1 in Vancouver, 2 in North Vancouver and 2 in West Vancouver). One day I am thinking of a coffee crawl in which I make itto each of those location on a bicycle.

oleh April 30, 2012 at 12:20 am

Using Google Maps, I just determined that I could do leave home, stop at each of the 5 Delanys Coffee Shops and be home in a total distance of 27 kilometers – quite manageable on my bicycle.

I could even stop in the Cafe Musette coffee shop in downtown Vancouver which is on the way. This cafe is dedicated to bicycling and bicycle racing (a musette is the feedbag used by road racers on the Tour de France).

Milan April 30, 2012 at 8:36 am

I was not aware of the free unlimited drip coffees. Does this also apply to any size. In that case, not only would there be a saving, but if I had an extended stay in one, I could benefit from hot and fresh coffee.

You must pay each time with a registered Starbucks card. The first time, the normal cost of the coffee is deducted. On any subsequent occasion (at least within an hour or so), you will not be charged for an additional drip coffee at the same location.

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