Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek.


The staff were excited.

A few months ago, they'd heard that my local Starbucks in Marin City, California was moving to a new location in the same shopping mall.

It would be bigger, they told me.

Bigger even than that, it had a drive-thru.


Starbucks is all about being progressive.

Indeed, Morgan Stanley only yesterday insisted that Starbucks is still far ahead of its high-end competitors, no matter how hand-crafted these competitors can make the patterns in your foam.

Still, let's talk about this progress and how it relates to humans.

The new Marin City location has been open for a few weeks now and I confess that my eyebrows touch the three hairs on the back of my head every morning I go there.

No, it's not just that most of the staff are wearing headphones, as if they're waiting for Air Traffic Control clearance before taking off in the co-pilot's seat of a Southwest 737.

It's this.

There's a large parking lot outside this Starbucks.

Yet, morning after morning, cars line up to proceed into the drive-thru.

I observe this and, well, I just can't.

I park. I get out of my car. I walk perhaps 30 or 40 steps and go inside.

There, I rarely see a line.

I have time to converse with Kurshina, Marie, Melissa, Yessie, Emily or whoever had to get themselves up at 3.30 a.m., just so that I could enjoy my monstrously overpriced coffee.

They're usually in good cheer. Sometimes, they have a good story to tell.

I'm in and out of there in less than five minutes.

When I walk out, I see that the car that was at the back of the line when I went in still hasn't emerged with the driver clutching their coffee and ready to spill it on themselves, as they try to get their sticky lemon loaf out of its paper bag.

And I wonder.

Why is it that those things sold to us as easier and quicker sometimes really aren't?

We buy the marketing and ignore, well, the reality.

These drivers are prepared to stand 7, 8 or even 9 cars deep, just to enjoy the perception that they are somehow smarter than everyone else.

It's the same perception that makes us use technology for everything, in the belief that it has to be better. Which means easier.

Then we bemoan that we just haven't swiped right on the right romantic partner.

Go out and meet people? Who does that?

Turn a light switch off at, you know, the light switch? Why would I do that? I have Alexa to do it for me.

Yes, it takes me 15 hours to find the right flight online. Wait, what's a travel agent?

It really is Wall-E world, where everyone becomes larger, more slovenly, yet thinks they have it all.

Please forgive me. Perhaps I just have a thing about all this.

But, seeing as this column is about my thing, what about all the people who drive around and around shopping-mall parking lots for 5 or 10 minutes, before they find the closest spot to the stores?

They could have instantly parked further away and walked a little. They would have got to the shops quicker.

Instead, they want to what? Win?

I know that someone at Starbucks will tell me that the average serving time at the drive-thru is 0.7 seconds faster than standing in line on your actual feet.

I'm sure the drive-thru is much faster at, say, off-peak times.

In the end, though, I can't help musing about how easily we're fooled into feeling clever.

I walked out of Starbucks this morning and the line of cars at the drive-thru was almost back to the road in between the parking spaces.

A large pick-up truck rolled up to the back of the line.

Yes, he blocked the road.