Monday, January 21, 2008

How Starbucks Saved My Life (copy)

He used to work at the best ad agency in New York City. He used to have a six-figure salary. He used to have final say over accounts such as the United States Marines, Burger King, IBM, and Ford. He used to wear Brooks Brothers and commute to work via a car service. He used to live in a home with 25 rooms and a two-story library. He used to have a loving wife.

In a companywide clean sweep, Michael was swept out with the old. It happened at a breakfast meeting with a bright young woman he had hired years earlier. After 25 years of dedicated service Michael was let go. He walked from the meeting realizing he had nowhere to go and nothing to do.

The firing came at a critical time in Michael’s life. He had some major problems. Months earlier he had been diagnosed with a brain tumor. The operation could wait, but eventually had to be done. He also met and courted a woman who became his lover. The affair produced an offspring his wife could not ignore. At 53 years-of-age and without a job, he needed money for medical bills, a divorce lawyer, and a bouncing baby boy.

This was Michael’s messed up life. He needed income and his attempts at consulting were, dare I say, rather insulting. He couldn’t blame his contacts. What did he have unique to offer his former clients other than cheaper rates? The meager returned phone calls slowly dried up.

One thing, through the whole degrading process, Michael could not give up was his daily Starbucks lattes. He had taken to using the famous chain as his headquarters for consulting. What did it matter he hadn’t a corner office? He had done quite a bit of work for the agency during coffee breaks at Starbucks anyway.

With latte in hand, Michael sat daydreaming when a woman spoke, “Would you like a job?"

The first chapter begins, “This is a true, surprising story of an old white man who was kicked out of the top of the American Establishment, by chance met a young African-American woman from a completely different background, and came to learn what is important in life.”

From hubris to humility, from being served into the service of others, Michael Gates Gill has written a quirky memoir in How Starbucks Saved My Life: A Son of Privilege Learns to Live like Everyone Else.

Note: What kind of life is Gill living now? Tom Hanks has bought the rights to the book and Gill is enjoying success on his book tour. Hmm, has he changed?


Anonymous said...

Maggie this sounds like a book that I want to read. :-)

Tiffany Norris said...

Cannot wait to read this! My husband is reading The Starbucks Principle right now, and he is loving it. I want coffee. ;)

Jeane said...

I don't know if I could read this book. I've always felt rather disgruntled at Starbucks for shouldering out smaller, independent coffehouses in Seattle (my home town).

maggie moran said...

Paul - You may just enjoy it; especially, the part about Frank Sinatra and 50 cents. :)

Tiffany - I think you will like it. It's a short easy read - I read it going and coming to Philly - which gives you a background for their management techniques. Very positive treatment of coworkers AND they provide health insurance. I'll want to keep that in mind when I retire. :)

Jeane - I totally see your point. Sort of the same scenario as Walmart which I'm not a big fan of...I'm afraid Mom and Pop stores are becoming a thing of the past.

We, in Mississippi, are just thrilled there is a coffeeshop to drink in, Jeane. Dunkin Doughnuts has yet to see the abundant opportunity in the fattest state in America. We had a neighborhood urn but that went out of business from the lack of business.

A little story. We got a Starbucks in Batesville this October. It is 15 miles away. Before that we traveled 40 miles north to one in Southaven, a MS suburb near Memphis. One of our new art instructors from Seattle said they would never put a Starbucks in Mississippi 'cos the locals wouldn't know how to order. I didn't want to say there had been one in Southaven for five years, I'd rather she look foolish in front of us hicks. ;D

Tiffany Norris said...

Throwing my thoughts in again...I, too, have/had a bit of an issue with Starbucks (even though I love the coffee--feel guilty about their big-corporation-ness). But I have to admit that the health insurance (and some other positive actions) impressed me. And, generally, the workers seem happy to be there, which is really nice!
OK, commercial over. ;) But loving this discussion!

maggie moran said...

Tiffany - I was talking with someone on the plane from Detroit to Memphis (Philly trip long story) who told me Starbucks was less a brand and more a joke now. I'm not sure if he had caught the title of my book or my leering over his Starbucks coffee to evoke such a comment. I really didn't follow up with why and now I wish I had. What does he mean? I don't get it? I just smiled at him and said a quiet thanks for making this tube of tired bodies smell a little better.

Speaking of Guilt! My depression era grandfather would be rotating in his grave if he knew the amount of money - plus tip - I'm willing to shell out for a 60 cent product!?! ;D

Anonymous said...

Maggie I am initiating a new award for librarians. I call it "The Sexiest Librarian in America". Can you help me to get nominees?

Anonymous said...

This sounds like a very interesting book! And to think I never even heard of it until I read your review. I'm definitely putting it on my to be read list. Thanks for sharing.

BTW, I love your blog! I love the content, your mission, and the beautiful design. I've browsed through many times but this is my first time commenting.

Isabel said...

Starbucks won't be expanding anymore and might have to lay off people.

Your protagonist went to work there at a good time.

Some NOLA locals are mad at StarBucks because they were the last coffee house to open after the Katrina. Someone spray painted that fact on their windows.

It's good to have an opinion, but don't vandalize windows.

maggie moran said...

You make me blush, Paul.

Welcome TY! I'm lovin me some Lit Connection, too! Gill promotes Starbucks so much the company should pay for his book tour. :)

You are so right WW100. I went to the ALA conference that first summer after Katrina and there was only one open. It was located at the Hyaitt,I think? I remember it was in the bottom of a hotel highrise close to the waterfront.

Deana said...

Oh I want to read this one!

Anonymous said...

Interesting review, Maggie--although I couldn't help feeling that Gill was trading on his writer father's laurels to get this one published (his father was The New Yorker's Brendan Gill). It was all right but I just don't know if it would have merited publication without his connections. I was also annoyed that after years of a six-figure income, Gill didn't have any money saved. Very irresponsible.

I just read a book called "Starbucked" by Taylor Clark and much preferred it--a very evenhanded consideration of Starbucks as a company and cultural phenomenon.

maggie moran said...

Oh, I'm glad I made it appetizing unlike the pintos and cornbread, Deana. You must be a biscuit gurl!?! :D

That or Starbucks, Nonanon. He had nothing bad to say about Starbucks and even though I understood his gratefulness I still found it odd.

The name dropping did get old, but the rock throwing at poet (was it eb white) was too funny. Oh, and the part where his co-workers didn't know Frank but knew 50 cent, priceless.

I felt it was a rose-colored Nickled and Dimed at times. Was he trying to go for business book or under-expose the belly of high-end coffee. AND, dang if he isn't the luckiest man when it comes to money! Let's hope he socks away some of the proceeds from this book.

Thanks for the book suggestion. I think I read a little on it in the New York Times.