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Friday, August 10, 2012

Dear Abby: Who Are The Baristas In Your Neighborhood

A wise woman once said "Nothing feels more American than walking by a Starbucks with a Starbucks from another Starbucks."

It is my pleasure to introduce you to that wise woman.  Meet @christinahonan.  Coming soon to something awesome near you or your reading material.

It is also my pleasure to respond to another inquiry from the Dear Abby mailbag.  In this installment, we take our Rorshach test blobby things and our Venn diagramming colored pencils to our local Starbucks establishment.  And we ask the question:  What makes a barista Starbuckian?  Who, Mr. Rogers, are the baristas in my neighborhood (Starbucks)?

If you've traveled one mile or you've traveled one million miles, you know that there are only a handful of things you can take for granted:  gas is expensive, flying is a pain, children don't enjoy being packed as luggage, and there will be a Starbucks on every block of your journey.  What my Rorshach'ing and Venn diagramming have laid bare is another travel truth we can hold to be self-evident: the same people work at all of those Starbucks.

Here they are, in no particular order:

The Hero:  This is the woman putting herself through college and single-handedly raising her two children.  She works the 5AM-9AM shift before she goes to classes before she works the afternoon shift at the grocery store before she gives her children dinner before she works the night shift at the gym.  She makes you feel supremely guilty that at 8:30AM, you're stressed because the line is two people deeper than it usually is, which means you'll be two minutes late to the only job you hold down.  A job that allows you to sit in an ergonomic chair at a desk with an Internet connection while you sip your $4 coffee.  You want to buy this woman a bed made of petite vanilla bean scones and tell her to take a load off.

The Artista Barista:  This is the guy who swirls designs in the top of your drink and insists there is a meaningful difference between foam and froth.  He is both friendly and intimidating, what with all his pretension that his first name is Star and his last name is Bucks.  He moved back to the United States ten years ago after living in a tent in Costa Rica weaving rugs and learning Spanish.  Since his return to the States, he has been perfecting the art of warming a drink to 180 degrees without the aid of a thermometer.  He thinks artificial sweeteners are for Republicans and cup sleeves are for people who drive cars.

The Renegade: This guy could have been an Artista Barista, but he couldn't figure out how to get a passport and thought skateboarding was a legitimate means of border crossing.  He does not believe in capitalism, consumerism, or colors.  He does performance art involving bubble wrap and Mentos, and light installations using nothing but glow sticks.  When his parents threatened to kick him out of the garage once and for all, he begrudgingly found the most ironic job he could imagine: a coffee tender at Starbucks.  He greets every order with a snarl and works the night shift.  Because his manager wants to minimize his interaction with sentient beings and children, and because it allows him to spit into every cup he assembles for the morning rush.

The Little Miss Sunshine: This girl is one decibel shy of a high school cheer squad and took the job when she lost out in the final round of auditions for Glee.  She loves babies, unicorns, and the world "Hello!"  She also happens to love The Renegade.  Which is very confusing for both of them.

The Ex-Con: This is the employee who is never heard and only rarely seen.  He is usually lurking somewhere between the coffee brewing station and the entrance to the nether regions of the supply closet.  He is most easily identified by the mop he is wielding and the vacant look in his eyes.  His utility to the Starbucks operation is always in doubt, except for those rare instances in which a customer needs to be arm-wrestled into a submissive receipt of an under-heated Soy Chai Latte.  He works only Mondays, Wednesday and Fridays since Tuesdays and Thursdays are reserved for check-ins with his probation officer.  He does, however, boast a tattoo of a Starbucks on his shoulder.  Unfortunately, the woman in the center ring is depicted giving the finger.  With both hands.

The Valedictorian:  She mans the cash register since she can do change in her head and can remember up to 16 orders at a time.  She also speaks French, Spanish and Arabic, which makes her useful for both taking orders and reminding tourists that the bathroom is for paying customers only.  She took the job three years ago when she couldn't decide whether to go to law school or to vet school.  She doesn't understand why or how she is still there, but she is enjoying herself for the first time in her life.  Her parents' reaction to the situation is the exact opposite, as they've made abundantly clear by removing her from the yearly family newsletter sent out at Christmas.

The MGM MBA: This eager beaver left his job on Wall Street and spent several hundred thousands of dollars to attend 2 years of graduate school for his MBA.  He was told he would make "connections" and be able to really "network" so as to take his career to the "next level."  Instead, he made some "enemies" after he "poached" a presentation on the ingenuity of mortgage-backed securities and now his career is "in the toilet."  After six months of disappointing interviews, he found himself reading memoir after memoir about the gilded age of Hollywood.  Seizing on his silver lining, he decided that, like the mail room gopher turned Harvey Weinstein, he would start at the bottom of the coffee food chain until he, too, one day finds himself a titan of industry.  A great plan that will surely turn dividends, just as soon as he stops spending his shift trying to beat customers at the New York Times crossword puzzle left out at the pick-up station or shorting stocks on

Bottoms up!


  1. She also speaks French, Spanish and Arabic, which makes her useful for both taking orders and reminding tourists that the bathroom is for paying customers only.

    You get tourists where you live? ;-P

    1. Indeed we do, Meredith. Indeed. We. Do. But also, this is about my Starbucks and your Starbucks and their Starbucks. And so tourists are abounding.

  2. Also the Caffeine Junkie who works there so she can get non-stop fixes. She's usually talking 200 words a minute and shaking like a leaf.

    Funny stuff!

    1. Thank you, Wendi.

      Caffeine Junkie just had to revive me with a strong jolt of java to the brain. A comment on my blog from Wendi Aarons?!? To quote Rachel Zoe, I die.

  3. This was awesome. And, in a very subtle way, a reminder to treat everyone with respect. It's not just about the coffee, but the people giving you the coffee, too. I need to remember that when my internal dialogue goes something like this, "Seriously, how LONG does it take to make a Cafe Au Lait?!"

    1. Faiqa, leave it to you to ascribe a deeper message to my post than my pea brain could ever have summoned. You are generous and very, very kind.

  4. What great writing.... I can't wait to share this and read more of your work. Thanks! p.s. Faiqa, I promise I'm not stalking you!

    1. Thank you, Ruth!

      P.S. Feel free to stalk me! Or at least, my blog!