Written by Suzanne Vega
[from: 'Soltude Standing', A&M, 1987]
Music I went to Starbucks the other day. As you know, I work in Manchester. In Liverpool we get by with only two Starbucks. But Manchester seems to have hundreds. Trouble is when I'm in line I squint at the menu and simply can't decide what to have, so by the time I get the counter I panic ... and ask the clerk what they're favourite flavour is ... and just have that.
So it's lunch time from the job I can't mention the other day and I'm there again. The girl clerk waits patiently before I say:
"Oh I don't know err ... what would you have?"
"Well I'd have a hot chocolate ... so ..."
"Come on. They all taste the same."
"You're not suppose to say that."
"OK ... we at Starbucks offer a whole range of flavours to suit all tastes."
"Well do you want something sweet or bitter?"
"Sweet." I answer definately.
"Well there is ... mumble .... mumble .... mumble .... something with caramel." People who work in coffeehouses have their own language. They should hire translators. I try and jump in...
"That sounds nice. I'll have that."
"Oh .. the first one ..."
"Large or small."
"Small. I'm not going to be here long."
I pay and join the queue. The business couple who came in after me are served their Lattes first.
Girl clerk: "Yours is a work of art so it'll just take a little bit longer."
A boy clerk is working on my order. He looks like a mad scientist putting parts on a new machine as he pours syrups and milks together.
Two minutes later a mug arrives in the centre of the counter. The boy clerks throw his hands in the air in victory.
"Taa daa." He shouts.
I find myself clapping slightly.
I sip the coffee. It tastes like a little piece of heaven.
Who knew just ordering a coffee could be so much fun?
[Originally posted 13th May 2002]
[Commentary: My new trick, most of the time, is to simply order whatever's new in stock, or the seasonal choice on the occasions I visit Starbucks which is less often than it used to be, not for ethical reason, it's just that the atmosphere has changed considerably since chain coffee shops really became a thing. Most of the time I'm wandering through to stock up on Via. Reposting this does finally offer the opportunity to link to one of the best pieces of writing I've seen this year, the piece from The Awl in which Molly Osberg who built a career working in coffee shops talks about the life. Plenty of what she says chimes with other service industry jobs, especially of the kind I've enjoyed.]