Adults may still make all the world’s big decisions, but you should never doubt the collective power of millions of Internet-connected American children.
In the past five days, their gazillion Snaps and Instagram posts drove us to spend several million dollars on the Unicorn Frappuccino, a Starbucks drink that looks like, tastes like, and has the nutritional value of a broken Tide pod plopped into a cup of Pepto-Bismol.
Of those several million dollars, $4.40 of it came from my wallet, because among those Internet-connected kids were all three of mine. Mia and Ezra are dedicated Snapchatters and Musical.ly-ers, and opened the demonic portal of limited-availability neon soft drinks into our home, and in flowed the desire to try one.
Early on I was content to give my favorite answer (“Um, no.”), but then when Ezra sent me his birthday list, the damned awful drink was right there in the middle of it, sandwiched between Nerf guns and jiu-jitsu T-shirts.
So I decided I’d pick them up from jiu-jitsu on Saturday morning and then we’d grab one and split it. This plan was met with much fanfare and adulation, instantly leveling me up on Dad-Is-Awesome points.
But the first Starbucks we came to had about a dozen cars in the drive-thru, and I sensed trouble. I’d heard tell of Starbucks locations running out of the ingredients necessary to make the drink, so rather than risk getting stuck in that convoy, I dashed inside to find that, indeed, this Starbucks too was out of the ingredients. The employees were giving deep but transparently disingenuous apologies; central among the Internet buzz about the Unicorn Frappuccino was the deep and abiding hatred baristas held for the drink itself and the people who ordered it.
But I’d already committed the Dad Sin of promising something I wasn’t sure I could deliver, so I had to make haste and find a way. We sprinted to the Starbucks that I felt gave us our best chance; the one inside a downtown hotel with no drive-thru. Even the Internet’s hottest current trend would fall victim to the fact that we Americans hate to actually drag our asses out of our cars and walk inside a store to obtain something.
I doubled down and called ahead; the barista told me that she had enough pink powder to make about four more of them, maybe five. Luckily, I was about 60 seconds away. I parked in a loading zone (not kidding) and ran inside (mostly because my kids were yelling “RUN, DAD!” but also because I did feel sort of like Jason Bourne, I’m not going to lie).
The place was empty. “You the guy who just called about the Unicorn?” the lady said. I admitted that I was, just as a group of four customers behind me closed in and announced their attentions to buy four of them and thus clean out the city completely.
I strode confidently back to the van carrying my golden ticket, and in a booming voice hurled instructions at the minions in order to stave off a riot. “TAKE TWO DRINKS AND PASS IT ON.”
This actually worked. Other than a few inter-sibling admonitions NOT TO STIR IT YET (apparently it changes flavor when you stir it), the drink was peacefully shared. The peace was ensured because no one actually liked it, so there was nothing to fight over. In my opinion, it tasted like pink lemonade diluted by whipped cream, which is weird, because no one puts whipped cream in lemonade.
But I learned from Mia and Ezra that the most important part of the Unicorn Frappuccino journey was not drinking it, nor obtaining it, but to post photos of the fact that you obtained it on social media. Whether you drank it or loved it or poured it down the toilet or used it to waterboard your stuffed unicorn doll — none of that mattered.
When we got home, it was still 80% full and no one wanted any more of it. I put it down on the sidewalk to go talk to our neighbors, and soon thereafter the poor little overhyped drink finally found a friend in Fernando. He gently lowered his massive snout and gently lapped up all but the last drippings without even knocking the cup over.
Moral of the story: You didn’t miss anything.
But rest assured, when the next Starbucks phenomenon strikes the world, we’ll be there with another full report.