"Happy Valentine's Day" the man behind the counter said, but not to me. I wondered if it was a statement, or a suggestion. Somehow it's never a question.

Tuesday. Starbucks. It's windy this morning, and I'd dished out my $2.55 for a "tall" cup of decidedly mediocre coffee, some blues on the speakers, and a place to get out of the cold.

I've noticed that everywhere, paper hearts are being exchanged, and flaunted. Pink and white candy that tastes like sweetened cardboard is being handed out, or worse yet actually sold. People buy it anyway; I suppose they think it's sentimental, and maybe I'd think the same if I were in their shoes. As it is, I'm about ready to machine gun every heart shaped object that comes across my path...

My cup is empty; I'm getting looks. As I see it, the coffee and the cup were only worth about a quarter. The rest of the exorbitant price were for the girl that smiled at me as she took my order; the sad, jazzy music that I hadn't expected to be playing on a day like this; the heating system; the trendy logo on my now empty cup, which I'm expected to carry around like a status symbol; the paper hearts that someone took the time to deface the walls with. (If they had offered the appropriate discount for not enjoying the hearts, I would have taken several.) While the coffee is unquestionably still mine, the rest of my purchase was clearly just a lease that has, by now, expired, leaving me to choose between putting more money in the meter and hitting the streets. My wallet is empty.

"Happy Valentine's Day" I heard him say to another customer as I walked out the door, into the wind. And I thought: "Yeah, right..."