Observations Vol. XXXIX

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By Chris Cosci

It's important in life to set a goal for yourself. By attaining this goal, you develop a strong sense of accomplishment. The goal is different for each person. For some, it's earning a specific amount of money, like a million dollars. For others, it's buying that beautiful home they've always dreamed about. For Texas native John Winter Smith, 30, it's visiting every Starbucks coffee shop in the world.

Winter (this is what he prefers to be called - I don't make these things up) didn't just wake up one morning and decide this was his goal in life. That would be absurd. It actually started a few years ago with a simple conversation with a Starbucks employee. The employee mentioned the rapid expansion of Starbucks and how they had a goal of having 2,000 stores by the year 2000. Of course, the first response to hearing that would obviously be, "wouldn't it be cool to visit all of them?"

At least, that was Winter's opinion, and thus, a dream was formed. By January 1998, he started checking the telephone listings for Starbucks he had yet to visit. The chase was on. He peaked in August 1999, when he embarked on a three-week Starbucks tour throughout the United States and Canada. It wasn't long after that when a Starbucks manager suggested taking pictures of each store and - you guessed it - posting them on the Internet.

Of course, there's more to visiting every Starbucks than just driving by and taking a photograph. Winter makes sure that he drinks at least a cup of coffee in each Starbucks he visits. On a typical day, when he's not cruising the country looking for Starbucks, Winter drinks about three cups of coffee. However, in bigger cities like New York and Los Angeles, he has admitted to drinking 15-25 coffees in a day, at which point he ditches his car and just walks across the country to the next Starbucks.

Seriously, you might wonder what effect this coffee obsession has on the mind. I think the clearest illustration is Winter's response to what will happen when he finally visits all of them. He says, "when I have tasted the blood of the Siren at every nexus between her being and our universe, this act will complete the cycle of prophecy, and I will transcend the mortal plane and join the Siren in Java as her consort."

First off, when one starts referring to coffee as the "blood of the Siren" and calling the afterworld "Java," it's time to start cutting back on the Frappuccinos. On top of that, this goal has transcended into a prophecy - a mission delivered by Siren, the God of Coffee, one of the lesser known gods that obviously never made it into the books on Greek and Roman mythology.

Will Winter ever accomplish this goal? It's hard to say, since Starbucks is constantly adding more stores to their artillery. Starbucks succeeded in their goal of opening 2,000 stores by 2000 and is currently operating 3,630 retail stores worldwide.

However, Winter is not dissuaded. He has already visited an impressive 2,883 stores, including 38 in the U.K. He says that if he puts his mind to it, he can visit them faster than they can build them. Interestingly enough, after a few espressos, he could also build his own Starbucks with his bare hands.

At least he has the support of his family, right? Winter states, "my father just thinks I'm nuts." How refreshing. I think the father sums it up perfectly: "He tells me he's happy. Whatever he wants to do. I hope that he gets what he's looking for, whatever that is." Could anybody ask for anything more from their parents?