I have really tried to be one of those cool Starbucks people. You know the kind, they can go to any Starbucks, order their coffee without trying, then sit with their computers or books or friends and, well, function.
But not me. I’ve tried to function at a Starbucks, but can’t. It starts the minute I walk in the door.
First I have to scout for a place to sit. It can’t be too close to the door otherwise I will catch a draft. It can’t be too close to a window otherwise I will be looking outside to see if something better is happening. And it can’t be too close to the bathroom either, because 1) it could potentially smell bad and 2) I would wonder what people are up to if they have been in there a bit too long. The best spot is in the middle of the store, but not too close to the counter.
Once I find my spot, I put down my stuff (after I cover anything valuable with my coat before I go to the counter, in case you know, another patron has “sticky fingers”). Then it’s time to order my coffee. Now I’m a small, medium, and large kind of gal, but Starbucks doesn’t offer those sizes. Instead the choices are short, tall, grande, venti, and soon, trenta. Which I guess is equal to small, medium, large, extra large, and jumbo but in a fancier, half Italian, half American kind of way.
Regardless, I need to check the menu before I can order my coffee from the girl at the counter (who I happen to call a cashier, but who Starbucks calls a Barista. I thought a Barista was the person who makes the coffee, not rings it up. Now I don’t know about you, but it has been my Starbucks experience that the person taking my money at register is not the one who is actually making my fancy coffee, especially in the morning. This job title situation is very confusing to me. So to get clarification, I checked the Starbucks career website and found only two types of retail career options listed: Baristas, who are the ‘face’ of Starbucks, and Shift Supervisors, who are ‘expert Baristas’. Which makes me wonder, if you are a Barista, do you feel a little bad because Starbucks obviously considers you as ‘average’ vs. 'expert'? And how long does it take one to go from being an average Barista, to being a Starbucks ‘expert’? Is there special Barista training that is required to become a Shift Supervisor? And let’s be honest here, the term Shift Supervisor doesn’t sound nearly as exotic as a Barista, even though it is an expert Barista. In fact, since Starbucks is quite liberal with injecting Italian words into their vernacular, why not call the shift supervisor Esperto Barista, which in Italian, translates to Expert Coffee Maker? That sounds so much sexier; if I were a Starbucks shift supervisor, I would lobby upper management for that title change, because think of how cool it would be to tell people you were an Esperto Barista, especially if you have the ability to roll your R’s. Nonetheless, the Starbucks website description didn’t clear up my original confusion of why the counter person is called a Barista even though I usually don’t see them ever make the coffee.)
Back to my coffee order. There is so much to read on the menu and I can tell the lady behind me is anxious for me to give the cashier? Barista? whatever she is, my order. So I order what I know I want, which is a medium coffee. But evidently medium coffee is the only option not on the Starbucks menu, because the cashier? Barista? needs clarification and bombards me with a bunch of probing questions:
“Does that mean you want a brewed coffee, a chocolate beverage, an espresso beverage, a frappucino blend, or would you like to try one of the featured offerings such as our Caramel Brulee Latte, ma’am”?
This is a lot of questions to ask of someone who, at the moment, needs an infusion of caffeine in her system in order to function properly. So I falter, as my brain is stymied by all the choices. I scan the menu again and blurt out, “I, I…I think I want brewed.”
“Ok, would you like Regular Pike, Decaf Pike, Clover Brewed, Bold Pick of the day, or Coffee Mistro?” asks the cashier? Bartista?
Holy moly, that’s a lot of choices to think through. The wheels in my head are turning so fast, I think there could be smoke coming out of my nostrils. Plus I gotta figure out what I want and fast, ‘cuz I can tell the lady standing behind me is about ready to have a bovine birth right in front of the Ethos water display.
I decide to commit to Pike, but only because its name makes me think of Pikes Peak, a mountain I saw when I was in Colorado Springs, which naturally reminds me of mountains, which I believe is where coffee beans are grown, at least according to a Folgers commercial I saw, and of course Folgers = regular plain coffee. Remembering I need to choose a size, I throw out tall, because tall sounds like more coffee than short. When the cashier? Barista? asks me if I would like a baked item to go with my tall Pike, I hesitate and decide to pass on getting food, since that would take me another minute to figure out and a glance behind me reveals the impatient lady is now gripping her sienna handled travel Starbucks mug like a tonfa and is set to strike me with a karate death blow she recently learned at the North Shore Martial Arts Academy.
I get my tall Pike (which is so bloody bitter by the way, that I have to dump a quarter of it in the garbage and fill the rest of my cup with cream, milk, and a handful of Splendas) and can finally sit at my pre-secured table and proceed to the business of being a ‘cool Starbucks customer’. I pull out my book and within 30 seconds my concentration is already wavering, because off to my left I catch a glimpse of shelves stocked with cool looking coffee mugs that are screaming for me to go over and buy, so they can sit in my cabinet and collect dust with the other 26 colorful mugs I had to own, but never use.
I will myself to back to my book. This time I’m able to keep my focus for a full minute until my eye spies an indigenous Sasquatch walking through the door. I fumble for my phone, ready to finally document the elusive creature, until a closer look reveals that it is actually a lady covered in a long shaggy patched fur coat, possibly made from road kill. Her head is topped off with a raccoon hat and her feet are encased in furry pom-pom boots. I try hard not to stare, but damn, she’s sportin' some of the fugliest outerwear I have ever seen in my life and I can’t help but wonder if she a direct descendant of a Canadian mountain man clan.
I close my eyes to try and get my focus back, but then become aware of the cacophony of sounds, which up to this point, have escaped me. Today’s Starbucks concerto begins with an uneven blend of people talking and coffee grinding, crescendos with a meld of Starbucks art house music and children screaming, and ends with a series of audible farts, which I am guessing, eeked out of the old guy who just shuffled past my table.
The convergence of distractions at Starbuck is insurmountable, because no matter how much I try, I seem to have the attention span of a gnat. In fact, I am beginning to believe even Helen Keller would be distracted trying to sit here. Frustrated, I throw away my coffee, collect my things, and leave.
However all was not totally lost, as my attraction to sparkly mugs helped lead me down my personal crooked path to Starbuck coolness. You see, clever girl that I am, before I left, I decided to purchase a ceramic Starbuck travel mug that looks just like a real Starbucks paper cup! I then drove myself over to the Dunkin Donuts, where multilingual skills are not necessary to order and I can purchase a Boston Crème donut. And although my medium coffee came in a tacky Styrofoam cup lettered with a font remnant of 1973, it didn’t matter, because I poured it right into my bright, shiny Starbucks mug!! Tooling around town, I made sure my Dunkin Donuts coffee was prominently displayed in my Starbucks mug, for all to see.