Going to Starbucks every morning is, let's face it not simply about the coffee. It's about the overall experience, the ritualistic process of going through the motions, ultimately to take that first sip of a delightful and highly caffeinated beverage. My Starbucks ritual begins when I depart my bus and walk the five-or-so steps it takes to reach the entrance to that beacon of morning exhaustion that conveniently sits on the corner two blocks from my office. Piling in with fellow drowsy (and now freezing) caffeine enthusiasts, we enter the warm and cheerful place that is bustling with excitement.
These days Annie Lennox's Christmas Album plays and there is a little yellow propped up sign reading "Caution: Wet Floor", since we all tread in perpetual snow and ice. The smells and sights of the usual customers feel like coming home. My favorite patron is a fabulously dressed man who sits, his wheelchair behind his table, with his laptop out. He is a little older, with silver hair, cut short and he pretty consistently openly expresses annoyance with certain patrons, sighing heavily or glaring. I like to imagine what he bases his judgments on- have the bumped his chair? Offended him in some way, perhaps by simply being less dashing? Or maybe it's those unfortunate Starbucks-goers who seem daunted by the processes of ordering, picking up and doctoring their beverages. I catch myself agreeing with his assessments as well- the second he groans in someones direction, I am immediately on his side. Perhaps it is his thick-rimmed glasses (think Tom Ford's line... maybe they are Tom Ford!) that give him an heir of distinguished authority or the simple fact that by noticing his reactions, I feel in-the-loop, but either way he adds excitement to my morning. As do the baristas who day-in-day-out serve me my coffee just the way I like it- now, without me even having to place an order.
One day this week; however, something really special happened. I met my Starbucks soul mate. Following the person ahead of me I filed in line, removed my headphones from my freezing ears and surveyed the case of delicious treats (I stayed strong and resisted the urge to get that croissant, opting for my regular old banana) and was quickly greeted by one of the regular baristas, who says to me "Grande Pike with room?" Ah! The satisfaction of being a regular somewhere! I nod, say thanks and move along in line towards the register. I notice that another barista friend, who is working the register today has a new hair color- a few shades darker than her usual golden blond, while thinking about how much I liked it, I heard something very interesting...
The man behind me was repeating my daily order word-for-word, "I'll have a Grande Pike with room please." Not "A Grande mild coffee" or "Grande Pike's Place" but "Grande Pike with room please." Now I recognize that this isn't that big of a coincidence. I am sure there are millions of people in the world who have discovered that Pike is the best roast and adding a bit of milk makes it the perfect morning delight, but, this was my first Nora Ephronic experience in a bustling city, in a coffee shop and I was alarmed. It quickly got more serious. After I paid my usual $3.19 for my coffee and banana breakfast I scooted over to the service station and reached for the 2% milk. This is one of the reasons I cherish my Starbucks: they have 2% milk. Skim is always too watery and whole or half and half is too thick, and mixing the two- oh please! I am just waking up, I am not interested in conducting a mini-science experiment! So... I reach for the 2% milk and what should happen? My coffee soul mate reaches his arm towards the 2% as well! I must have dawdled when removing my lid, or adjusting my coffee sleeve for us to reach this point in coffee-tending in tandem, but as I suspect we were destined to be. I laugh and say "I'm sorry go ahead" and he says the exact same thing! No, not really. Sadly, my kismet story is just about over here... He said, "No, you go ahead." And so, I did, batting my eyelashes the whole time (again, no, not really) and departed on my regular route to work, indulging in those first oh-so-hot sips of coffee! Will I see my coffee soul mate ever again? Who can say, but what I do know is, with mornings filled with such delights it's more than worth that daily $3.19!