Stories Post 3: Citizens

There’s a man who always comes to the Starbucks where I work. He is aged, seemingly happy. Grit and dirt are visible in the cracks of his face. He is always accompanied by a green, wheeled duffel bag. As of late, a black beanie has become a part of his uniform. This man never orders anything, well,  I’ve never seen him order anything, but he makes full use of the lobby and facilities. He is also one of the few regular faces (aside from my co-workers) who happily greets me. Though I’ve seen him most every time I’ve worked, I do not know this man’s name.

There are many faces that come through the store. Some of them more frequently than others, some of them multiple times in a day. Recognizability can prove a blessing and a curse. The more often an individual comes to the shop, the higher the odds that they’ll assume I remember their name or/and their drink. There is, of course, a correlation between the frequency with which one comes to Starbucks and the complexity of their drink. The customers who frequent a Starbucks every afternoon are of the 9 pump, extra-hot, vanilla chai; or the 7 pump white-chocolate mocha frappuccino with extra, extra, extra caramel and extra, extra, extra, extra whipped creme variety. These are the people that I get to “know.” They are the ones who seem to genuinely care about how my day’s going, and, in turn, I inquire as to the status of their days. In contrast, there are those customers who go through the process of waiting and waiting. They do not deviate from the set routine that someone at Starbucks assembled. They are the one’s who wish to . minimize this exercise in patience and in waiting, the ones for whom their sole purpose is to caffeinate.

People of various types come and go at Starbucks.  Partners–Starbucks’ euphemism for “employees” disappear; customers who, at one time were regulars, disappear without reason. In the grand scheme of things, the machine must chug on. The atmosphere that certain absences leave behind is voided in some ways because of certain disappearances. The man I see every day, the one who greets me with a crooked smile in a black beanie, I wonder whether he will be there tomorrow, I hope that he will be. The absence he will leave, if he ever does leave one, will be felt, but the machine will continue to chug forward.


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