Whenever people hear about how Evan Olson and I became friends, they’re rather incredulous. “Wait, are you sure you’re not just describing a typical Nora Ephron screenplay?,” they ask. Nope. We joke about that fact, because it’s not everyday that you become friends & never actually encounter one another–only to finally meet in Times Square around Christmastime. (And guess what happened when we DID meet up? We hated one another…until the last day of the trip!) Evan works at everyone’s favorite local coffee shop (you’ve probably never heard of it. Starbucks?), has great taste in music/books/films, and is a fantastic writer, composing words in such a way that as you read, you can almost imagine them being transformed into a pilot for a quirky TV show. You need to seriously follow him on Twitter or his blog ASAP, because he’s got a lot to say!
Without fail, it happens every week.
I see someone around town and, instantly, I realize two things simultaneously;
· They are a customer.
· And I know their drink.
I’ve worked at Starbucks for almost three years. It’s the most enjoyable job I’ve ever had. There are time when it’s stressful, for sure. But all that stress is kind of forgotten about when it’s a Tuesday morning, Frank Sinatra is singing swoon songs over the radio, and customers are slowly trickling in for their morning usual. It’s magical and, on those days, exactly what you’d expect it to be like.
I live in a fast-growing suburb of Des Moines, Iowa. But it’s not huge, yet, so it’s easy to bump into people. Customers included. It never fails to make me smirk when I see people who I have no real connection to and immediately know their beverage. I’ll be with my sister, we’ll walk by someone at Target, and I’ll whisper, “That’s grande mocha.” Or, “That’s double-cupped raspberry white mocha. She’s the one who screamed at me and called us all…..” You get the drift.
I’ll never forget this past week. We were at Target (Seriously, I go their once a week. Sue me. It’s the most relaxing place in the universe) and I commented to my sister how I had just walked by six different customers. It was a very Christopher Nolan-y moment: they were all connected and they didn’t even know it! Six degrees of separation – Starbucks style.
Speaking of people and their beverages, I’ve noticed something. Simply put: after a designated amounted of time, customers begin to resemble their drinks. It takes about three weeks for it to happen. The person has to first begin coming in routinely, then they have to settle on a beverage, and they gotta order that same beverage six or seven times. After that, it goes like clockwork.
Example A: This one woman always orders a Earl Grey Tea Latte with no classic, two Sweet and Low, non-fat milk, and light whip. Whenever I hand her the drink I think, “If you were a drink, you would be this one.” The teabags are a purple-colored hue and, somehow, she seems to always be wearing something with that general color. It’s weird and she’s not the only one it happens to.
It’s a lot like people who own pets and how they slowly begin to morph into the human equivalent of their Pomeranian. Diehard customers (male, female, tween, and college students) they all begin to resemble what they drink.
This theory brings me to a question: what drink would you be?
Disclaimer: this really only works if you’re a regular customer at a local Starbucks. Starbucks, more than any other company, has created a culture and a mythology that surrounds every aspect of the experience. So I can’t speak to other coffee-shops or cafes. That means, if your favorite drink is something called a Brownie Avalanche Mocha with Caramel Curls, I can’t help ya. Sorry. No hard feelings.
Thankfully, I’m an employee and, also, a customer. So I can speak to this.
Personally, I think I’m a Venti Black Iced Tea (with sweetener.)
This is my thinking behind it: I’m a venti because I’m tall and skinny. I’m black iced tea because, generally, everyone likes that kind of a tea and, generally, everyone likes me, too.
Also, the sweetener thing is important – I’m tall, skinny, and NICE. If I were the same drink without sweetener, I would be tall, skinny, and unrelentingly cruel.
Now, think about your order and what it may say about you? It probably says a lot!
As I write all of this, I can’t help but think that having a beverage begin to resemble customer is actually good for business. Starbucks has always been about more than coffee – it’s about identity. Maybe the people begin to resemble their drinks because the drink is so personal that it actually does represent them in a deep, meaningful way. Just food, err, coffee for though.
I leave you with this quote from one of my favorite movies.
“The whole purpose of places like Starbucks is for people with no decision-making ability whatsoever to make six decisions just to buy one cup of coffee. Short tall, light, dark, caf, decaf, low-fat, non-fat, etc. So people who don’t know what the hell they’re doing or who on earth they are can, for only $2.95, get not just a cup of coffee but an absolutely defining sense of self…..”