My Christmas gift this year was seven days alone. No wife, no kid - just pure bliss. Everything was just about perfect. I could watch something on TV without it being "Dora the Explorer" or "Project Runway." I could sleep whenever I wanted for however long I wanted. Food was my choice and served whenever I was ready. Did I mention I could sleep as long as I wanted?
The only problem was coffee. I can make coffee, but I can't make coffee using the coffee machine my wife bought for us. It's a complicated little machine that actually grinds the beans before it brews the coffee. The machine has some problems...
1. It sounds like a jet engine when it grinds the beans and it wakes everyone in the house up. There's no sense in setting it to start at 5:30 because you want to get up at 6:00 and have the coffee waiting for you. When it goes off you're up at that moment - possibly with wet jammies if you're not expecting it.
2. It's impossible to get the strength of the coffee right. My wife has figured it out for our morning routine together, but we've never been able to use it when we just need a cup or two. It's always either too dark or too light. The water to whole bean ratio thing isn't easy to master.
So, given that I couldn't get my coffee at home, I had to go to Starbucks. Why would I go to Starbucks if I hate it so much? Good question. It's the only place I know how to order from. And even at that, I only order a vanilla or hazelnut skim latte. I'm terrified of trying to order something else and not getting right and having some smug barista judge me more than his over-educated-under-employed ass already does. I can't handle that kind of pressure.
On day one I don't notice anything other than the fact there are way too many people using the place as a base of operations. Not an "office" - a base of operations. People with jobs don't have time to f*ck around at a Starbucks all day. Mind you, I'm talking about a Starbucks in Arlington - not the city. In fact, it's the one right next to the Italian Store (half of you just decided it was time for pizza - you can thank me later, fatty). People left their home with its internet connection and other amenities to go hang out at Starbucks with their laptop. It's like showering at the gym after your workout and then going home. I don't get it. It's not like they were at their office and needed a break - there are no offices near that Starbucks.
On day two I notice that many of the same people are there again. I decide to make mental notes of faces, where they're sitting and what I can observe of their behavior.
On day three it's obvious that at least six or seven of the people I've seen the previous two days are Starbucks squatters. They seem to be a part of a social club that has only one requirement for adminttance - be a lonely weirdo. And by God these people are weird. One guy is like 70 and he's got military BDU pants on a some kind of Iraqi Freedom shirt with a digital camo shawl wrapped around his shoulders and a blacked-out 9/11 "Never Forget" baseball cap on. He sits next to this hippie looking guy who has removed his shoes and may be living in the woods near the river. Both of them have a comment for every woman in line waiting to order and any guy who has a visible insignia of any kind on their person.
The guy standing in front of me and just adjacent to the hippie and 9/11 G.I. Joe is wearing a jacket that says "BAE Systems" on the left breast. 9/11 G.I. Joe asks the guy what BAE Systems is. And by "ask" I mean he just kind of starts talking to the man who is not looking at him or acknowledging him in any way. It's awkward for everyone except for 9.11 G.I. Joe and the hippie who are now both asking the guy the same question. The guy is not paying attention to them and it only inspires them to keep asking. It is likely that the BAE Systems jacket guy is a bit distracted by the idea that one slip of the tongue when ordering could result in the entire Starbucks crew laughing hysterically at him. It's a common fear.
Eventually they get tired of trying to get Mr. BAE System's attention and 9/11 G.I. Joe gets up, walks over, skips to the head of the line and requests something. It's a straw. There are approximately 7,000 straws identical to the one the barista hands him available to customers on the little bar where you can add stuff to your coffee. However, 9/11 G.I. Joe, and the rest of the regulars as I found out, make sure they get any of the items located on that bar for the the public - straight from the baristas themselves. They are special. They want you to know it.
By day five I have the whole social structure mapped out. I know who's who in the Starbucks loser club. The hippie and 9/11 G.I. Joe annoy even the other annoying regulars and are only tolerated in short bursts. They kind of float between unofficially reserved tables for the regulars, leaving after they have quickly worn out their welcome.
On morning five a young married couple had settled into have coffee and a soccer ball-sized muffin right where one of the regulars usually squats. He was loudly pointing out to everybody in the Starbucks losers club that they were sitting where he normally sits. It was infantile. It was ridiculous. It was awkward. It was Starbucks at its best.
Day seven was Christmas Day and of course the Starbucks loser club held their regularly scheduled meeting. Some of them wore Santa hats. It was weird. They were all sitting in the seats next to the unusually long line that had formed. They were rapidly shooting awkward and inappropriate questions at the poor customers stuck in line with no place to go. One English professor-type guy blurted out "Coach? What do you coach? You don't look like a coach?" He was referring to a woman carrying a Coach purse - I think. He thought he was hilarious, as you can imagine.
One very pregnant woman with her mother was asked by the hippie if the father of her unborn child was going to be around. I was very confused/shocked by the question at first, but then realized that like many women who are eight months pregnant, she was swollen and wasn't wearing her wedding ring. The woman actually took it well and somehow divulged that she was carrying twins... the ensuing conversation about birth rights and who comes out first was both idioticand shockingly hard to stop listening to. One doesn't find this level of public stupid very often. You have to take advantage of it even if you don't this it is right.
Needless to say, it was a nightmare Christmas morning for everyone stuck in that Starbucks line. Being that Starbucks was one of the few places open on Christmas it had a large crowd and the Starbucks losers club had one of its most exciting days of the year.
I'd pay extra if they'd kick these squatters out and let me wait nervously to order in peace. And yes, if you spend more than five minutes alone in Starbucks after you have received your drink, you're a loser. If you crack open a laptop you're a double loser. If you go there to write a screen play or novel on your laptop - you're a triple loser with lite whip. Any questions?