February 24, 2016

POP CULTURE, POLITICS AND PERCEPTION |Chai Latte with a Shot of Morphine

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I’m currently sitting in a Starbucks in Edinburgh, Scotland. Before I attract any sass for studying abroad and still going to Starbucks, I would like to say that familiarity can be a blessing and free WiFi is needed at times. Anyway, as I rest here sipping my Chai latte, I’m reminded of healthcare… bear with me.

Photo Courtesy of Meaningful Traveler

Photo Courtesy of Meaningful Traveler

So, in most European cafes, a customer is given the choice to “sit in” or “take away” – I would like to add that the first time this was put to me, in a strong Scottish brogue, I was very confused. In Starbucks, the answer “sit in” will get you a nice white Starbucks mug filled with the beverage of your choice.

For this comfort at Starbucks, as well as other establishments, you pay a few pence extra. Why? Because the establishment has taken on the risk of giving any random Tom, Dick or Harry actual ceramics. If you break it, you haven’t bought it; basically, you don’t have to pay for any mishaps. Since every customer makes a small contribution, the price of the broken pottery is covered one pence at a time. Thus, everyone can have a nice mug without fear. What if you can’t afford the mug? What if you’ve never broken a mug before and don’t want your mug prices to go up just because of one clumsy moment? This simple system counteracts such worries. No one has to go bankrupt because of a few tragic mug incidents; coffee and tea can therefore be enjoyed stress-free.

Then, of course, there are the people who will never break a mug. They will live their whole caffeinated life never having to dip into the mug fund to which they are contributing. For these clients, they have to accept that those extra pence are added to their order for the efficiency of the system and betterment of the overall Starbucks experience. Some customers might bring their own fancy mugs from home and they don’t want to pay a fee for something that doesn’t affect them – even though they have more than enough pence. They claim that only certain people are clumsy enough to break mugs and they should get a job and pay for any accidents themselves. Serves them right for not bringing a fancy mug from home. They must be lazy and playing the system, since they keep dropping mugs. They should deal with the consequences on their own.

Photo Courtesy of Amazon

I’ve come to the end of my Chai latte, mug intact, and must now start my walk home. However, I hope we can appreciate the simple and effective Starbucks system. For while some people may grumble at the fee, everyone pays it. No one makes a big deal or insists that sit in mugs aren’t a universal right. I don’t know why common sense acts of goodwill become harder when you think about them. However, I hope we might benefit from the Starbucks mug system and allow everyone to live with a little less stress. I understand we aren’t talking about a few pence, but as the rates go up, so do the stakes: breaking a limb is a lot worse than breaking a mug. If we are willing to blindly pay for a trivial pleasure, like a nice mug, can’t we conceive a system of protection for everyone? For while we reward those outside the system that claw their way to the top, doing whatever it takes to succeed, there is also a time when contributing to the system and providing for the common good is necessary.

In the end, giving out medical care should be as natural as giving a few pence for fancy mugs. There is no perfect system in which careless, maybe even undeserving, people don’t benefit from the system, but that doesn’t mean we should abandon unfortunate Americans who are innocent, guilty only of being poor.

Sarah Palmer is a junior in the College of Arts and Sciences. Her spirit animal is President William Henry Harrison, reminding her that even the biggest success can be dampened by the wrong outfit choice. She spends far too much time watching old movies, listening to jazz and trying not to do anything. Pop Culture, Politics and Perception appears on alternate Wednesdays this semester. She can be reached at ssp222@cornell.edu.

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