Spotify and Starbucks = Muzak

Starbucks Coffee

Now I know what happened.  And why.  I came back home from my summer university teaching in Prague, went to my local Starbucks, held up my iPhone with its Starbucks app to the scanner and settled down happily to enjoy my coffee in what I expected would be the usual warm, comfortable atmosphere. Then I realized something had changed. Where was the mood-setting music mix of new and old, jazz and rock? Manager’s choice music which varied from store to store to fit the customer mix?  Background music which – like that of a lounge pianist – created a sense of belonging, of social interaction in an otherwise sterile, masculine-colored brown and tan, oblong strip mall space.   What I heard now was more like the old Muzak. Boring, genre-less, insipid elevator music.  It was like an Invasion of the Body Snatchers.  Or maybe the Stepford Wives.

I asked the baristas. We hate it too, they said. I emailed the regional manager. I’ll tell my boss, she emailed back. I even filled out a customer complaint form on the Starbucks website.  We’ll pass on your comments, came the stock reply.

Today I found out the truth.  What really happened.  In a way it was an Invasion of the Body Snatchers.  Spotify and Starbucks had partnered to create what they called “a next generation music ecosystem”. In all 7000 company owned US stores.  I must have missed the announcement last May.  Had I known I might have stayed in Prague.  Where the body snatchers haven’t ventured yet. And Starbucks is still Starbucks.

There’s nothing in my local New Jersey store saying something like “Music by Spotify. Plunk down your 10 monthly bucks to subscribe.” There’s just nothing. Musical nothingness.

I wonder if it’s because most of Starbucks’ employees are just too young to remember Muzak. Or all the jokes.  Or maybe out in Seattle  – where corporate Starbucks lives – they never had elevator music.  It’s the West Coast after all. And the living is —- different.


A Nation of Couch Potatoes

couch potato

i don’t have much patience with couch potatoes.  Personally, I don’t sit well.  I fidget a lot.  At work I’m always jumping up and down — walking to the printer, the coffee station, the bathroom.  Walking fast because there is always so little time.  I wouldn’t go so far as to work at a standing desk but it’s far too easy when you’re working hard, concentrating on a PC screen, to become an immovable object.  Something health experts say is the very antithesis of healthy. AKA couch potato.

Before I blew out my knee I ran (and finished) 28 marathons. Not necessarily well and certainly not fast but — I finished. This past Sunday my husband Frank finished his umpteenth marathon (we’ve lost count and who has time to add up his medals).  Today’s New York Times contained a timely article on the gold standard for all runners known as the runner’s high. This was a somewhat windy article about how that high may not be caused by endorphins after all but by a marijuana-like chemical in our bodies. Doesn’t really matter.  What matters is how serious exercise makes you feel.  I can still get a runner’s high from my current short 2 to 5 mile runs.  Whatever its chemical cause, a runner’s high is simply a feeling of well-being when your run is done.  I imagine people who bike a lot get the same lifting of the spirit. In fact probably any sustained exercise makes you feel good.  Aerobic classes.  A long, fast-paced walk in the fall-colored woods.

I see out of shape people sashaying hopefully into my gym every day.  No doubt sent there by their doctors, their children, their loved ones who’d like them to stick around for a lot more healthy years.  A few of them stick it out.  Work on the weight machines with a trainer, huff and puff on the treadmill or a bike, struggle through a zumba class.  After a few hard-fought months or maybe even a year –those few even become gym rats like me –determined to keep their thinner, more muscled, healthier, happier and – actually – younger selves.  But the majority waste their year’s membership.  Drop out in a month or less after their determined start.  I don’t really know why. For most it’s wasted money they worked hard to make. Or someone in their families did.

What makes some of us not just able to keep our daily date with exercise but more than willing to do it?  And what makes others seemingly unable to stick to a workout plan which could save their lives and will certainly make those lives a lot better? I’m just a reporter not a psychologist. I haven’t a clue. But the psychological rewards of regular exercise — those runners’ highs — would certainly change the equation.  Overcome couch potato-ness.  If only more sitters would just stand up — and move.

Another Opening of Another Show

cropped-SS-Blog-Short-Hair.jpgI don’t suppose I’m unique these days but I feel like I’m always re-inventing myself professionally. So here I go again — to paraphrase a President named Reagan whose 1980 presidential campaign was my political reporting trial-by-fire.

I’ve blogged before and eventually, when I get the technical stuff in hand, you’ll see a link to Global Perspectives as I so grandly called it.  Long, carefully crafted columns. Not really so global as it turned out.

I travel a fair amount and love exploring other cities, other landscapes, other countries, other cultures and above all — other people’s lives.

I’m a health and fitness nut.  A gym rat who ran 30 marathons and now runs only occasional 5ks.  On a 6 year old knee replacement. Yes – I learned a lot about the power of the mind and the frailty of the body as I ran my knee into the ground. Always sure I could will my body to do my bidding, injury or no, 14 hour work days or no. Sleep? Ha! A half hour of running at 5AM was worth more than a half hour more of sleep I figured. Especially when the time allotted for sleep averaged just 4 -5 hours a night!  Hey dummy — you can’t run marathons on so little sleep. Or on injuries. But I’m a control freak and I didn’t believe it.  Believe me, I do now.

So look for some stuff about health and working out here. And eating right of course. Nothing about cooking. Never had the time. But thankfully my husband cooks.  And we have a microwave. Or I’d probably live on salads and cold cereal.

And again – as soon as I get the hang of it – look for some videos, some photos, some infographics with audio — whatever I can do to make my point.  If I find news during my travels – I’ll post it here.  And probably a little here and there about the absurdities of life.  I’ll try to keep things reasonably short. And I don’t want to hear from grammarians.  It’s my voice. As I have always phrased my radio and TV newscasts and reports. Fragmented like me. I hope it’s the beginning of a beautiful and interesting relationship.