Starbucks eventually won me over. I resisted for a long time, thinking of thinking of Starbucks as the Seattle coffee Goliath trying to squash all the little independent coffee shop Davids. But when one inevitably opened right down the block from the office, it was just too easy to wander in. And it turned out the coffee was so very good, the lattes were just right, and the espresso had all the kick I could want.
Once I succumbed to the coffee, the rest was easy. The place became comfortable, almost a destination, with the bistro-style tables and comfortable chairs and just the right mix of new and old music playing at a volume just loud enough to be enjoyed on its own, but soft enough to never interfere in a conversation. And that coffee smell always in the air …
I got hooked. Well played, Starbucks. Well played.
But as with so many things that seem too good to be true, there is inevitably a chink in the armor. This discovery came on an early Saturday morning while dealing with the bad Friday night decision of not closing my bar tab as early as I should have. I drifted into a Starbucks that morning in dire need of anything venti (that’s a large drink, for anyone who’s been able to resist that inviting green marquee).
While gingerly raising my eyes to scan the menu choices, I became conscious of someone near me talking in a strange voice. It sounded something like an adult talking baby talk. Not a completely unexpected sound in a coffee shop on a Saturday morning, so I didn’t think much of it until I heard something clearly not meant for a baby.
“Have an awesome day!”
I turned my head in time to realize the source of this ridiculous encouragement was the barista. She was tall, wiry, and full of energy. Too full of energy. It radiated from her. In my jittery state it almost knocked me back.
At first I thought maybe she knew the customer, maybe he was even a favorite customer who was singled out for such wishes. But as I looked at the barista it dawned on me that she wasn’t addressing a friend or favorite customer and it wasn’t some random, impromptu comment. No, it was painfully clear that she wanted everyone to have an awesome day. And I was next.
The thing was, I did not want to have an awesome day. I was hung over, with the puffy eyes, throbbing headache, bodily pain and fatigue. So all I really wanted was to get through the morning and worry about the rest of the day later.
I’m sure there are people out there who strive to have an awesome day. Or those who hadn’t thought about it, but when told to have an awesome day thought it seemed like a pretty good idea. I was not one of those people. I was not hostile, or even impolite, and had no desire to make trouble. I was just a guy in dire need of a quick jolt of caffeine to keep things moving.
I had the sudden urge to bolt from the place, but I couldn’t move fast enough before her eyes were upon me. She gave me a look like she was so happy to see me, though we’d never laid eyes on one another before. I started to sweat, which might have been from the hangover, but I don’t think so. Of course she can’t just say, “Hi” and ask me what I’d like.
“Hey there, big guy! I bet you could use a some coffee! Maybe even a tasty scone or a scrumptious muffin!”
Oh, my God.
I had an almost Pavlovian reaction to not respond–scrumptious?!?–but managed to stammer out an order for a latte. Rather than simply tell the other barista my order, she seemed to address everyone behind the counter, seemingly all at once. I was horrified, but fascinated. As my order was prepared, I found myself wondering how she gets through a shift without her co-workers stabbing her with a thousand coffee stirrers, like a human voodoo doll.
I snapped out of my little trance when I realized she was talking to me again, asking me how my day was going. My first though was to hiss that it wasn’t even 8:00 a.m. and my “day” wasn’t going anywhere yet, which is why I just want my coffee. But I didn’t have the energy to hit the right hostile tone. I then wondered if she’d leave me be if I said my day so far is “awesome.” But I couldn’t bring myself to say it.
I finally managed to croak that it was too early to tell, hoping that my response couple with my generally dreary appearance would subtly convey that I wasn’t feeling very conversational. This was stupid thinking, since subtly was obviously not her thing. If I had started banging my head against the counter as hard as I could, I’m not sure she would have gotten the message. She wrinkled her face up at my reply and smiles. She was beaming! I think this was meant to be cute. I found it extraordinary, and not in a good way.
When my latte was ready, she put it on the counter and spoke again, with her face still scrunched up and her shoulders pulled in tight. Her body shook just a bit, like it one of the most exciting moments she’d ever experienced. Then in the baby-talk voice: “Here’s one deee-liciiiousssss skinny vanilla latte!!!”
I shuffled out as fast as I could, but not fast enough. I knew what was coming.
“Have an awesome day!” thumped me in the head as I went out the door.
My day was not awesome. At least the coffee was good.