The Value of Work
Jenna Bush Hager let Hoda Kotb in on her secret cold remedy the other day on The Today Show. It’s that time of year so make sure you know where the nearest Starbucks is.
What the ex-president’s daughter swears by is called The Medicine Ball which used to be on Starbucks' "secret menu" as a customer-created beverage. It became so popular the coffee chain added it to the permanent menu in 2017.
Starbucks is beloved by millions of customers for doing things like putting this customer concoction on the menu. There is at least one employee, Michael Gates Gill, who loves Howard Schultz’s brainchild as well.
Gill’s book, “How Starbucks Saved My Life: A Son of Privilege Learns to Live Like Everyone Else” is a love letter to Starbucks’ employees and customers in between ruminations about his childhood, career, and past mistakes that left him an unemployed, broke white man in his early 60’s.
Before his fall from grace, Gill, the son of a famous writer for “The New Yorker,” was a big-swinging-dick creative director with J. Walter Thompson. He worked on advertising campaigns for multiple Fortune 500 companies over 25 years. However, he was expendable. He then started a consulting business, which failed. There was an affair with a child produced, leading to divorce and estrangement from his older children, and a brain tumor was discovered.
Mr. Gill may have met and rubbed shoulders with various literary luminaries, but that was a distant memory. While nursing a coffee in Starbucks, worrying about where he would find rent money, an attractive woman named Crystal asked him if he wanted a job. A job at Starbucks. He filled out the application and waited for Crystal’s call. He writes, “the prospect of working at Starbucks humiliated me.” He was thrilled when she called with a job offer. Humiliation turned into excitement.
Gill’s book chronicles the new reality: “What I was experiencing, as a guy too old to find work, was a reality for millions of aging Americans today who could not support themselves and were no longer wanted by the major corporations in our country.”
After the author was hired, he learned how challenging it was to work at the coffee colossus. A full shift was hard on the author’s 60 year old feet and working the register scared him to death. His commute was an hour and a half each way provided he successfully navigated the subway maze below New York City. Memorizing how to make the myriad of Starbucks offerings was slow and painful.
What he lacked in experience and expertise, Gill made up for by connecting with customers. His knack for remembering names was put it to good use behind the counter. His co-workers were decades younger than him, and of different races and backgrounds, but they took to him (with one exception) and his sense of humor.
The book is a tribute to work. The camaraderie among employees is inspiring. The reconciliation with his children is heartwarming. In the About the Author section it reads, Gill “lives and works as a barista at a Starbucks in the New York area.”
The book was published more than a decade ago, so he may have hung up his green apron by now.
However, Starbucks lives on spectacularly. And, for a cold, Today.com reports,
To order the drink at a Starbucks store or on their app, ask for a Honey Citrus Mint Tea.
Here’s the recipe:
1 Venti cup filled with half hot water and half steamed lemonade
1 bag of Teavana Jade Citrus Mint Tea
1 bag of Teavana Peach Tranquility Tea
1 packet of honey
Pump of peppermint (optional)