Monday, October 26, 2009

How Starbucks Saved My Life


What’s the big deal? It saved my life too, many times. That’s what I thought when I first heard the title of this book. Lately I came across this title here . I have been meaning to read this book ever since. Sometimes it so happens that you want something and it presents itself. It’s been happening so with a lot of things for me, except of course that truck load of money that just doesn’t arrive. So a friend of mine sees this in discount section gets the book and I get to read it.

Now coming back to point, this book is not about Starbucks coffee saving lives the way we know it. You see, we have been guests. This book is about how Starbucks gave a second chance to Michael Gates Gill. He, by the way, happens to be a barista at Starbucks.

So what is so special about this Mr. Gill? Well, there is something. Michael Gates Gill is son of a celebrated New Yorker writer Brendon Gill, lived in a huge brownstone as a kid. He studied in Yale and was a successful advertising professional at JWT. He worked there for 25 years and rose up to executive vice president and that is when he was fired. He was fired by one of his mentees whom he helped rise in her career. He tells you that he was fired for being an oddity in a company which wanted to be young and sleek. At the age of 53 he starts his own consulting business, which doesn’t click.

He spends next 10 years doing various things. Hoping that his old customers will find him useful, going to gym, having an affair, fathering a son out of marriage, getting a divorce and giving his big house to his former wife. He also manages to bore the woman he had affair with and grow a tumour in his brain which is non-terminal but is making him lose hearing in one ear. Oh, I almost forgot, he spends all his money, has no insurance for him and kids and is almost broke. Apart from all this he mainly spends time visiting Starbucks stores and being too rigid to accept for a long time that he has screwed his life up and good. Only good thing, spending time with the youngest son, makes him realize what he missed out on with his other 4 kids.

 One fine day, he is sipping coffee in Starbucks store and pondering over how messed up his life really is, he is offered a job. He grabs the offer, thinking of the great health benefits. Thus he becomes a partner at Starbucks (a barista for us).

Rest of it is how Michael, now Mike, copes up with his new job, realizing everyday that JWT never made him feel so respected and satisfied.

That is what the story is for the most part. But if you can, for a moment, forget that the narrator is telling his own ‘riches to rags story’, there is something more that comes out. Most glaring is the contrast between the old corporate in America ruled by ‘white middle aged men’ and the corporate today that is more diversified and inclusive in terms of color, age and sex. Now and again Mike can’t help but compare the small everyday things with the way things were. Comparing how his young African-American female boss supports and guides him with how he ruined the advertising career for an African-American girl for committing a mistake that he didn’t warn her against.

And that at times, makes you think that from being served to be one who serves probably serves him right.

The book has a great catchy title, something you would expect from an ad veteran. It is also full of information and details that, at least I would not care about. I mean, I can live without knowing which Starbucks store Crystal manages. The narrative is easy going and sometimes manipulative and at times makes you genuinely feel for him. Most importantly, without any serious sermon, book makes you realize and think about a few things which are so important and so neglected by us in life. After I turned the last page, I looked for when it was printed and could not help but wonder what this guy is doing today. That is when I knew I have read a good story.

This book doesn’t cost much to read, both in terms of time and money. Read it by all means if you lay your hands on it. If you miss it, there is a movie all ready in the making. Read here on IMDB.

Good job Michael Gates Gill. I hope that you are truly happy in life and you don’t have to think anymore about how low you have fallen in life. By the way, though Starbucks might have saved your life, for me you would have redeemed your soul too if only you had not omitted Tawana’s name from the acknowledgements.

2 comments:

tarana said...

The plot of the story is a little alike to d movie 'Bagwan' where Amitabh, dejected by his family, works part time in a cafetoria and starts writing his novel there....Starbucks too save life..not bad as a part time business :)

P said...

Tarana,
That ways this story is 'Bagwan' inside out. There the kids screw up his life, here the hero screws his life and his family's too.
But nice that you pointed this. Here is a lesson for all. This way or that you are going to land up in a cafeteria. So have fun while you can!

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