Starbucks


Okay, I’m gonna get way out there on this one……. I’m crunchy. I like to look for kindness in strangers, that little ray of sunshine that can’t help but peek out… Jesus in the toothless man on the street, Buddha in the lady who hands me my metro-card that has fallen out of my back pocket… It’s a silly and idealistic way of viewing the world, but I choose to view it that way, and it sure beats thinking that everyone is out to screw you.

Okay, so it’s Saturday afternoon, I’ve finished my first show down in Miami. Can’t do anything too crazy because I need to save my strength for the evening performance, and Larry Johnson is coming to review us from the Miami Herald, and he’s a cranky little thing! So I decided to take a drive with Suzie and Justin to a mall in search of The Little Black Dress.

On a side note, Seraphic Fire has the most interesting dress code of any ensemble I’ve ever worked with. Nothing floor length, preferably no sleeves, pants are cool, skirts are better, the shorter the better, the more cleavage you show the better, bare midriffs are cool…. My contract literally says “think Katherine Zeta Jones, but mimimize the bling…..” This is fab. In the New York ensembles I sing with, we have the “New York Black” outfit, which is usually long sleeve black shirt, and black pants… pretty sex-less and definitely not individualistic… Maybe you’ve been at a Starbucks and have witnessed what I like to call the “Invasion of the Sprockets” which is where the new-york-black-clad ensemble floods the nearest Starbucks to caff up before a performance….I can imagine seeing 30 people covered head to toe in black can be intimidating coming right at you like that.

However, this blog has nothing to do with the Little Black Dress, but it does concern Starbucks, and in particular, one employee. I’m not usually a Starbucks fan- I have a love hate relationship with them. I love their coffee, and I hate that I love their coffee. I’m writing this from gate E1 of the FLL airport, where there is no Starbucks. I’m drinking coffee from a Styrofoam cup…it’s hot and brown, and that’s about it. I hate myself for wanting Starbucks right now… I’m a yuppy, I’ve been seduced by the corporate coffee bean and …I hate myself.

So, this Saturday afternoon, I get out of our rented car and approach the door. I’m already inside the store when a man in an electric wheelchair pulls up to the door, and is trying to maneuver his chair into the Bucks. He was severely deformed. I’m not sure what condition he was born with, but his legs were crooked, and his head was cocked up to the side, I’m not sure he is capable of looking someone straight on. At sight, it was hard not to stare, and I admit, I was amazed that he was coming into a Starbucks. I had to leave the store in order to hold the door for him. He wheeled himself in and I stood right behind him in line.

The Starbucks counter is intense. There are stores where the counter is about three feet off the ground, and then there are a few that are at least over four feet, where you shout your order at some poor barista over a wall…. This was definitely one of those “you have to be this tall to ride the latte” stores… I thought to myself, well, how’s this gonna go down?? Is it obvious that he’s in line? will people cut him? I felt compassion for the man; I was flooded with a sense of responsibility. I needed to see this guy through his bucks experience.

At this point in the story, my attention wandered up to the counter where two gorgeous girls were being attended to by an even more gorgeous man. This is saying a lot, as these two girls were well dressed and incredibly well groomed. I’m always more body conscious when I’m in Miami. People spend a lot of money on themselves down here. Anyways, as I shriveled in shame at my own do-it-yourself toenail polish job, I was struck in sheer amazement at the beauty of this man behind the counter.

He was gorgeous. Not Greek god gorgeous, but all done up per-ty gorgeous. Dark hair and dark eyes, an earring in the eyebrow… his teeth were platinum white, so white that they made the whites of his eyes appear yellowish.. As we got closer I realized that he was wearing eyeliner and mascara, and the most fabulous coral lip-gloss I’ve ever encountered on a man. Pretty sure he was wearing powder too….. I call him Puck. He was very “sprite”ly and had shaved his sideburns into two arrows and had a little triangular goatee on his chin.

I could not stop myself from staring at this man. Only in Miami could a Starbucks barista out-sass two bombshell blonde starlets, and I hated all of them. I just wanted my coffee…… I didn’t want a Rupaul routine, and that’s what I was getting. He called one of them sweetie, he flapped his wrists at them, smiled at the other one and brought her frappucino…. I was filled with horrible thoughts. I just wanted coffee, not a trip to Narnia with Mr. Tumnus my fawn-barista. I just couldn’t handle any more Miami today. I longed for New York where my baristas are cranky, but genuine.

And then Puck glanced over the latte wall and saw the man in the wheelchair. In about three seconds everything that I had judged to be true about Puck was to be thrown in my face. “Hey Harvey, another ice coffee?” said Puck, in a rather corn-fed and straightforward masculine voice. Harvey said something that I couldn’t understand, but Puck could. He came out from behind the barista barricade and unvelcro-ed Harvey’s shirt where a wallet hung on a string, took out two dollars, rang him up, and then placed the change back into the wallet and fastened him back up, all the while chatting with Harvey. Harvey wheeled back outside where his dog was waiting patiently for him, and Puck brought the iced coffee out to him. It was the most intensely beautiful moment I’ve witnessed in a long time. I had dismissed Puck to be another pretty Miami boy…

This moment isn’t so much about Puck. He obviously knew Harvey, and I don’t want to give the impression that those that take care of their appearance must therefore be shallow and not capable of genuine kindness and compassion, that’s not it at all. I was just overwhelmed by how incredibly full of shit I can be sometimes, and in that instant I utterly despised myself… seriously, how little it takes to get me to go to the dark place sometimes is a struggle. (The next morning I saw Harvey at a different Starbucks! He was there with his dog, rocking out a Bluetooth headset, and I noticed a little Mac i book pocket on the side of his wheelchair. Yo, Harvey gets around, and he likes his bucks, just like you and I.)

Every once in a while we’re given these moments where you are forced to recognize how incredibly small and insignificant you are, how our own personal agendas are usually fueled by some narcissistic desire, how my own problems are so trivial, how we very rarely feel genuinely grateful for the ability to do the simple things, like walk, or order an ice coffee; and how quick we are to judge people based on their appearance… I’m not gonna say that Harvey is Jesus, or Puck is Buddha, or vice-versa, or whatever, but in one moment I had them both limited and installed in my mind as one particular person, and I was sooo off, and I’m so thankful that I was. Sometimes I need to be smacked by the proverbial 2×4.

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