Starbucks is an interesting place to observe people.
I’m sitting at a small table, waiting for the traffic to die down. I’m blogging, which is also kinda normal for me. But as I was blogging, I thought to myself there are all kinds of stories here.
There are the usual students, and hipsters. The hipster kid in the beanie on his Macbook FaceTiming on the free WiFi, heedless of the impact he’s having on all the other patrons in the place.
The disgruntled looks from the other students trying to do research who now have throughput that’s slower than 300 Baud ever was. (You whippersnappers, look it up.)
The annoyed patrons around the kid, as they’re being forcibly included in the kids’ conversation.
I’m immune to the throughput issues, because I’m using the hotspot on my phone. I’m at a small table with only one chair in a far corner of the room. The Kid notices me looking at him as he fairly shouts into his headset “I like having you play with my asshole!”
Ahem, he forgot that the muffling effect of his earbuds meant he couldn’t hear himself and when you can’t hear yourself speak, you tend to yell.
There’s no embarrassment for his part, he’s looking at me with doe eyed innocence, either not realizing that the entire place now knows he likes having his ass played with or simply not caring.
Standing in line
Two people ahead of me.
First person has gotten to the counter but has still not decided what they want. Suddenly everything is in slow motion. I’m questioning if I actually need coffee.
The person finally figures out what they want, and pay for their order.
The next person steps to the counter, “I don’t know what I want…” TIME STOPS! After slow tedious questions and descriptions by the counter person a beverage decision is made.
Only NOW does the lady start digging in her purse for her wallet and a method of payment.
While the lady in front is learning about the merits and growing conditions of Columbian coffee beans, (Which by the way she didn’t buy) Another lady is behind me.
And she’s stepping into my personal space, on my left, then on my right, then on my left, then on my right and she’s bumping me in the process. All this un-necessary motion in close proximity activates my security instincts.
I turn to carefully look this woman over. I mean carefully, with intensity and precision.
“What are you a perv,” she asks annoyed at the attention.
“No, I’m just making sure you don’t have a bomb vest on, since you’re obviously agitated, in a rush, and had NO PROBLEM trying to bum rush me out of your way. DO YOU WANT TO GO AHEAD OF ME?” I replied firmly.
Now “crazy lady” is looking at me like I’ve got two heads. Hey, as far as I’m concerned her opening line about my being a perv was intended to be shocking. So I replied in kind and I think I trumped her
The lady at the counter is still getting her education about coffee beans.
“I’m an American!”
“As am I, ma’m, however apparently I’ve got much better manners and understanding of “waiting in line” social etiquette, than you do.”
“I repeat, do you want to go ahead of me? Honestly, your invasion of my personal space and obvious impatience is putting me very much on edge.”
She blinked like I’d slapped her.
“As you wish.”
I turned back to the counter. The lady ahead of us having now completed her coffee bean education, digs into her purse for her wallet… Sigh.
My turn: “Cafe Mocha, no whip.” I flash my Starbucks App barcode at the scanner and I’m on my way to the pickup station. Before I get to the pickup station, my phone vibrates telling me that the purchase receipt has arrived.
“Crazy Lady” is asking questions about the coffee drinks… Four minutes later, Cafe Mocha in hand, I’m heading out the door. The line too is out the door, “Crazy Lady” is only now digging in her purse for her wallet…
There oughta be two lines. One for those of us who know what the hell we want, and another for those who don’t know what they want, and aren’t organized enough to have their method of payment ready.
I know you can place your order on-line, I’m just enough of a luddite I still like having the interaction.
I’d like the lines…
If you get in the “I know what I want line,” and don’t have your order and payment ready, you get asked to step to the other line.
10 Seconds! That’s all you get, If you don’t have your cash out, or payment thing ready, your order is canceled and you’re asked to step to the back of the other line.
Fitting punishment, I’d say.
Sitting at a table
When I sit at a Starbucks table, I like to hang out, out of the main flow of people.
I’m often working on a book or a blog, or coding something on a website. Generally, I can shut out the hustle and bustle around me as white noise and be in my own little world.
Sometimes though, my attention is drawn to the mini-dramas playing out in the rest of the place.
The crying child. The angry person on their phone. The older person having their first experience with Starbucks. The students, and hipsters grooving to their own beats. The gaudy dude in the tasteless suit wearing fake diamonds bigger than the Hope diamond in his ears, and the cheap flashy Rolex knock-off. (Dude, here’s a hint, we know it’s all fake because of your shoes and the POS beater car we saw you get out of.) The homeless guy outside on the patio trying to stay out of the wind and find a little shade drinking the left-overs, and getting a little charity from the occasional good soul.
It’s a cross section of humanity, and very often an interesting mélange of people. There’s a texture to the people at Starbucks, with some variations dependent on region, all Starbucks are the same.
The mélange of people is essentially the same, and when you’ve been in enough Starbucks you start to think you’re seeing even the same individuals in every store.
So much for originality or uniqueness!
Sitting there doing my thing and tuning in and out of the mini dramas is strangely relaxing for me.
I’ve never run into anyone I actually knew at a Starbucks. Everyone in the place are strangers. I get to engage in judgement without guilt.
Starbucks mini dramas provide material for my writing. I think I’m relieved that I don’t actually have to live all of the drama to get a feel for what it’s about.
I think I’m relaxed because I’m reminded that my problems aren’t unique, and my focus is expanded beyond my immediate crisis.
What’s that old saying?
Misery loves company…