I see no French tractors poised to plow over the latest encroachment of American culture, as one did to a McDonalds site in southwestern France five years ago. Instead, the fourth Starbucks store in Paris has a line of customers that reaches nearly to the front door, and every little round table is surrounded by mainly young patrons, mainly women. I brought my Starbucks card with me from Denver just for this moment, wondering if I would be able to charge a latte on it. The answer was “Non,” and thus I lost a bet with Darlene.

The employees wear black shirts and green aprons, just as in the States, and the menu offers the usual fare, except that French customers are eased into the mind-numbing possibilities of StarWorld with a sign that advises, “How to Personalize Your Drink.” (1. Choose a drink. 2. Add an espresso. 3. Choose a size, etc.) At least in France the sizes make sense. A small is “petit” instead of “tall,” that phony aggrandizement which I can never quite bring myself to utter when ordering back home. The young man who took my order said “it’s too busy–we can’t keep up!” But some visitors apparently seek more than just a java buzz. A discrete sign in French and English warns that “des pickpockets” operate in this area. “S’il vous plait, soyez vigilants!” Please, be vigilant! Words to live by. And strong coffee helps.

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