Friday, November 13, 2009


Susan sent me a Starbucks card for my birthday. It's a wonder that I opened it because who would open some envelope from a coffee shop? And especially a person who often doesn't open packages, especially during holidays or around birthdays, because no one can give her what she wants or what she wasn't given.

But I opened it! And then lost it in the general chaos, but found it a few days ago. I even bought myself a sandwich so I could stay longer, writing on the laptop which suddenly gave-way because I'd run out of batteries.

The folks working at this particular Starbucks (though probably it's true of most of them) get to know what we want -- my fussy self wanting the perfect non-fat, extra-hot, hardly any foam, tall latte. 

Recently I've gotten to know something about some of them. I happened to ask the young woman (is she called a barrista?) how she was on the morning that she'd been insulted for the last time of her seven years of working there. She'd had one demeaning, insulting comment too many. And she was going to give notice. I assumed that she'd cool off, that she wouldn't quit, what with this economy, but she did. 

When I saw her this week she said that she told the manager that it would probably take her two to six months to find something, but within two or three days she'd gotten a job. Since she likes customer service and wants to be in the hospitality business and has a sweet nature, she's completely happy that she'll be showing people the luxury apartments that they've rented for limited amounts of time (a few weeks, six months,) here in Boston. She won't be in sales! Gets a car to drive them to different locations. And has to get to know all the auxiliary staff in each of these buildings. It's a high end job and she'll have to dress well. No more uniforms. Sunday is her last day at Starbucks and she starts her new job on Monday.

Another young woman is a pharmacist, five years of school, and working at Starbucks to make ends meet. She's thinking of getting a master, a two year prospect, so that she can teach pharmacy. In the meantime, she reading a thick book to further strengthen her skills as she hunts for a better job. "Do you have a mentor?" Yes, she does, who advised further training. "You have to know everything, all the interactions..."

And there's the woman who just moved to Arlington with her daughter, thirteen, and is very glad that she made the transition to a new school so easily. She's watchful of her girl's friends, remembering how influential they are in a young person's life. She'll take a group of her daughter's friends to the movies, paying for all of them, in order to keep the communication open, to do pleasant things together. (Hard to imagine she can do all this on her salary.)

I've been thinking about these women  --- and even more about Miguel who was a guard I'd often walk by when I went into the backside of the track somewhere around six every morning. He was sitting in that tiny booth, reading, always reading, then taking notes about what he read, trying to improve himself. He'd had a college baseball scholarship, in some state like Iowa, but got married and quit. Now he has two children and a year-and-a-half of credit. When I ran into him a few days ago, he said he's applying to a college that condenses the courses into five week blocks, that he'll go on for his master's and then teach history. It'll take maybe four years. Since I met him, he's changed his schedule to work nights, that means five days of work, instead of four, plus one night of supervisor pay. It costs $260 a week for daycare. He seemed as calm, as well-spoken, as focused, as carefully dressed and clear headed as he was the mornings I caught him before his night shift ended.   


  1. What a wonderful story teller you are.

    I love this dense and poignant portrayal of aspects of your visits to Starbucks and environs. I'm curious about your life as a photographer, your eye for detail, they must be linked.

    I'll scroll down your blog further later when I have more time. In the meantime thanks for this post. It's good to meet you and your writing.

  2. "Only connect." You've done it. A web of connections.

  3. Hi Elisabeth, Thank you so much for reading this. Very kind of you.
    Mim, I missed you this morning.....