Today I ventured forth into the world to accomplish two things.
Firstly, I claimed my new Starbucks base. It is located in a dumpier strip mall just south of my house. The strip mall also usefully houses a liquor store, a sushi joint (its a ringer — excellent), and a liquor store among many other establishments that I do not frequent. Said strip mall is not within walking distance, but close enough to be a partner to Friday lunch outings and the like. I’ve been to this Starbucks before and the employees are always unique characters — far more welcoming than the average barista and, in many cases, quite vivacious. This will help to complete what I am actually here for which isn’t coffee; its people watching.
And just in case any of you would like to take this opportunity to debate the relative merits of Starbucks, let me stop you right here. It’s a good company run by people whose values I mostly share (I like nationally consistent coffee and I also like gays. I could also care less about the NBA). I’ve been a consumer of their products since the age of 14, so while I am well aware of the fact that they’re an evil bad corporation, I still love Starbucks. Ahem.
Secondly, I’ve started what will tentatively become my Friday blog post theme. I will go out into the world, observe, and then write about what I see. Maybe a character, maybe several. Maybe a situation. Regardless, this should be fun. For me, at least. Today’s exercise is an observational stream of consciousness. It may not be very interesting. If you don’t want to read what I saw, then simply don’t click below. No hard feelings.
The lead barista behind the bar is a bigger blonde, but it isn’t even the fact that she’s stoutly built (like me) and tall (unlike me) that makes her seem outsized. It’s more the cloud of gregarious personality with which she embraces everyone who walks in the door. Even the obvious pains in the ass are greeted similarly.
Like boots and her man who just walked in. She dumped her satchel in the armchair next to mine while her much older companion laid his sopping umbrella onto the table. They left their things like much discarded chattel while they approach the blonde to place their orders. They’re up. They’re down. They’re taking clothes off. They’re putting them back on. They’re in the bathroom. They’re back at the ordering counter. Maybe they’re not really that far apart in age, they just looked that way from a distance.
An assistant barista leans over the wall to hand him a warm ham and swiss while he sits in the armchair, unmoving. The assistant is older than the blonde and has an impossibly dark pageboy held back with purple sunglasses. Her hair does not match her face or her prim polo. It is as if three different people have been jammed into her ensemble.
This place is amazing for people watching.
I am not the only person on a computer here. There is a tassel hatted REI addict drinking something cold — no doubt to spite the pervasive drizzle outside. She has a puffy, metallic green coat on, so I doubt there’s danger of her getting too cold. There is an older man, his glasses sliding down the ridge of a prominent nose which continues in a line down to his chin, his stomach, all the way down to his laptop. I am being watched now by a green beret’d asian, who is no doubt puzzling at my upside down “I am an Artist” sticker from Artist Trust, which I love, but does seem rather presumptuous.
Lady Couple is eating the ham sandwich while he reads the paper. They’re completely ignoring one another. These boots she’s wearing have 3 inch block heels and are impossibly adorned — one part motorcycle boot and one part moccasin. I can’t afford to be judgmental about strange footwear, but as featured by her skinny jeans, these were meant for this sort of review. She removes yet another layer of clothing — her third or forth. Perhaps they’re playing strip poker? Maybe they’re from California.
A third barista has appeared. She is also blonde, but with an athletic build. She’s perky, but not gregarious like the first. I don’t want to have a beer with her.
When I first came in, the music was quite lovely. Biblio and India Arie. Then it was bad, to the point of needing to abandon ship — some sort of whiny minnie mouse manner of acoustic. Now it’s good again. It’s “They” by Jem, which I love and poor Adam hates. It’s based on a Mozart theme and tends to get stuck in one’s head.
“I’m sorry, so sorry,
I’m sorry it’s like this
I’m sorry, so sorry,
I’m sorry we do this.”
And isn’t that a great song for regular old human interactions where it seems that 80% of them are kind, considerate and congenial and then there are the rest. The ones that hurt and scar. The ones we remember. It reminds me that I’m sitting here making judgements, presuming, imagining. But that’s the whole point.
Another writer has seemingly entered. She has a notebook, though, instead of a laptop. I used to be like that. Noble and altruistic. Thinking words were only good if treated in a reverent way. But that is complete and utter bullshit. It’s the same pablum that keeps people from e-readers (and I was once one of them) and all other manners of technical advancements. With technology I have twice the access that I ever did to literature of all quality. If you truly love words, books, communication then you take it any way you can get it. The killing of a tree has no bearing on the quality, meaning, or sincerity of that work.
Green beret just accosted Male Couple for the paper, which he defended, finally relinquishing the sports page. I should have taken a picture of the boots. But it would be a little obvious at this point. Male Couple just answered his phone “Yo, no soup for you” which makes him more of a jerk than I had originally feared. The writer is watching me watch them. She’s scribbling furiously. I will certainly beat her in word count. (1060, so far.)
I was contemplating leaving, again due to the wildly fluctuating musical quality, but now we’ve just been joined by the police, which is very exciting. I don’t know any police type people personally and for some strange reason, I’m taken by uniformed people — police, firemen, chefs — as little celebrities. They’re in and out the doors. They have blocky little tablets with them. One is inside and the other is outside, maybe on his phone, in the rain. He isn’t smoking. Can you imagine a smoking cop these days ? They’re also both drinking icy drinks like the knitted hat. I am freezing, so I can’t imagine doing such a thing. It’s probably better, though, than being on your third giant cup of full strength brew for the day. The sacrifices I make for my art…
I’ve learned that Couple is waiting for someone to pick them up. Something bad has happened to them. Maybe there has been a death, but not an unexpected one. Or it is a pending death. He wants prayers from the person who doesn’t get soup. Now they’re both on their phones. She is speaking Russian. This part of my town is heavily eastern european, so this isn’t that uncommon. However, this also means that I have no earthly clue what she’s saying. She may be saying that she is sad, or she’s ok, or that she’s eating a ham sandwich, or that she has new boots.
Couple is smooching, disgustingly, now. She’s crawled in his lap. I’m sure one of them needs comfort. He’s whispering “tough day,” to her but I don’t know who’s tough day it is or if they’ve been together long enough for that toughness to be shared or if it is still obligatory. I am guessing the latter as typically that sort of emotion is muted, shared with a subtle touch, look, or tone as a relationship matures. Regardless, I’m torn between being repulsed and heart-warmed. They’re facing me directly as they rub all over each other and I’m trying not to look and not to blush. It isn’t malicious. They’re in their own private world. I wouldn’t even mind so much if they could kiss more quietly. Slurp, smack, schloop.
He claims the rain is clearing. She schloops him again.
Big blonde barista is watching it all out of the corner of her eye. I wink at her knowingly, gather my things.