Admit it. Like millions of Americans, you gave sincere and humble thanks yesterday for the good health you worry about, the loving family that drains you and the job you despise three--five?--days of the work week.
Yet things for which you are purely grateful never got mentioned. I mean, even if your last few years reeked, you had to be thankful that you weren't Hillary Clinton and never will be.
I, for instance, never mentioned my gratitude to them--and more specifically to Starbucks, the national coffee-seller whose unchecked growth makes weeds greener with envy, for having hurt me for the last time.
See, a month or so ago I strolled into my local franchise and placed the same order I'd placed every weekday for months: "A chai tea latte, please."
Now, some folks require Chardonnay nightcaps or a cup of joe per hour to get through the week. I'm a chai chick who was so committed that employees started fixing the tea, spice and honey brew the second I walked in the joint.
That morning, I gratefully accepted the drink prepared by the "barista" and sipped.
And found myself drinking an entirely different concoction.
"The company changed the preparation last week," the barista explained. "You're not the first customer to complain."
They had struck again.
They do it to everybody. They did it so often to the mother of my best friend, she developed a theory: "If a product is great, a true bargain or unusually effective, they will take it off the market."
Her mom's theory was proven the day my friend discovered that Barbara Walden's Free N Set, a "miraculous" instant-set hair cream she had for years bought faithfully at Macy's, had--poof!--vanished. "You'd put a dab on your hair and five minutes later, you had curls!" marvels my still-grieving friend. Scarred by years of resultant bad hair days, she moans, "We still have pink curlers. Why not Barbara Walden?"
Somewhere, they are chuckling. Just as they did when they crushed my buddy Rachel by persuading the folks at Bed, Bath & Beyond to dispense with its fragrant milk soap and instructed the Top Ramen instant-noodle company to discontinue its Spicy Beef flavor in favor of Picante Beef, which Rachel swears "pales by comparison. . . . I mean, who makes these decisions?"
They do--the ogres who disappeared the Butoni toaster pizza, "a delicious portable pizza long before anyone heard of pocket sandwiches," recalls my brother, who clamored for them at age 10. "One day Mom came home from the grocery store and said they'd stopped making them."
His voice catches. "What the hell happened?"
The same thing that happened to Revlon's long-lasting "Egyptian Kohl" liner in its darling terra-cotta urn. And the incomparable "P Shine" nail-buffing system. And Barielle foot cream, which tamed the crustiest heels. And Wiener Wagons.
Perhaps these products exist in some distant Zip code, where they can do us no good. When Calvin Klein's original cologne evaporated from shelves, my friend Avis was devastated--until a pal who lived across the country located three precious bottles for her. Avis hoarded the fragrance like liquid gold--and got angrier by the spritz. "If I'd been closer to New York, I would have been outside Calvin Klein's waving protest signs," says Avis, who now wears Elizabeth Taylor's "White Diamonds."
"If [Taylor] takes that off the market," Avis promises, "it will get ugly."
Like Starbucks and me. First, the company summarily dispensed with the espresso-iced cupcakes that got me through pregnancy. Then their lemon bars went bye-bye. Hijacking my chai--and replacing it with a lesser brew on the assumption the faithful wouldn't notice--was the last straw.
A call to corporate headquarters via 1-800-BE-LATTE connected me with a perky associate who feigned sympathy while explaining that Starbucks had acquired a company whose chai mixture they now used. Enough complaints, she promised, and "we'll take a look at the decision!"
Please. Few products rise from the dead, rare exceptions being original Coke and Teddy Grahams, an early '80s snack whose reappearance nearly brought tears to the eyes of my teenage sons. On Wednesday, I visited Starbucks for the first time in weeks to ask about people's reactions to the new chai.
"Most ordered something else," the manager said. "Or they got used to it."
Not me. I'm done with Starbucks--for now, anyway. So why am I grateful to them?
Money, honey. A grande chai tea latte costs about $3, which was pricey enough without the ancillary pastries I'd buy for my kids. In the weeks since I gave up the drink, they have saved me upwards of $100. Before Christmas.
My enormous gratitude reminds me of another holiday prayer, Tiny Tim's sweet request with which I heartily concur: "God bless us, every one."
Except for them.