When I first move to a new city, or even when I just go for a short visit, I find myself at Starbucks. (Formerly referred to in this blog as the Coffee Giant; like you’re really surprised that’s the corporation I work for?) Anyway… My best friend, Natalie, would yell at me, “Stop hanging out at work on your day off!”
People find it odd that baristas choose to stop in their place of employment on their days off, or hang out in the café after their shift. As much as we sometimes want to pull our hair out and are eager to punch out for the day, why would we want to spend another second at work?
Well, think about all the reasons you love going to Starbucks or your favorite coffee shop. Just because baristas sling coffee in the crazy, same four walls with its annoying sounds — like the coffee timer, oven, safe, or blender — doesn’t mean we don’t find a sense of home there, just like you may have felt during your daily visits before work or school. Or like many vacationers who come to Anna Maria Island (which is sans Starbucks), they will drive off the island to Bradenton for their fix.
When I first moved to Nashville and Anna Maria Island, I didn’t know a soul in either area. All I had were my co-workers and my customers. Working at Starbucks while relocating to a new city was a fantastic way to get to know new people. Instantly you share a common bond with the coffee community.
With your fellow baristas, you can reminisce about customer experiences together, and with customers, you make small talk while preparing their beverage. Eventually you begin to know everyone by name and find out things about their life, as they learn about yours.
On my days off, I would find myself bored, or at times, lonely, not knowing anyone else. I would pack up my laptop and go to some place where, like the bar on Cheers, everyone knows your name. I’d sit and write my novels, and get to show my co-workers and customers a different side of me — the side that doesn’t have to wear all black, a hat, and an apron.
Getting out of the house to do all of my side work also helped me stay productive. Fueling myself up on free coffee while away from my bedroom doesn’t allow opportunities for unnecessary naps or procrastination. Well, procrastination still finds me on occasion, but in the form of social opportunities. Grabbing lunch with a co-worker on break, having an interesting conversation with a customer, or waiting in line for a refill, where I will, most likely, interact with someone in the process.
The truth is, as much as I can be annoyed by Starbucks after spending so many years behind the counter, I will always call it home. It’s familiar no matter where the location is.
I do, however, think that as I leave behind my apron to travel and expand my writing career, I might find myself frequenting other coffee shops more. For one, I love to try out new places, and two, other coffee shops can be quieter, serve the community more, and have healthier (and vegan) options.
On my days off while I am still on Anna Maria Island, I hang out at some of the local Mom & Pop shops. The coffee isn’t quite as good, but I’m finding these places know my name just the same. Being a regular customer is just as nice as being a welcoming barista, and maybe I should start embracing that.
One thing I know, if I ever feel lost during my travels, I can walk into a Starbucks, and find a piece of home.