Starbucks in the afternoon means some time to enjoy a iced coffee and surreptitiously watch other people that are perhaps watching yet other people. The Starbucks I like going to do this people watching is one I used to visit some years ago. Then I would walk in and it felt like a true Cheers moment when Herb walked in and the bar greeted him. The baristas would note the time of day and asked if I wanted my afternoon drink. The was a grande iced coffee. Sometimes some kind of goodie. Often on Fridays, I’d plan on arriving around 4pm because a group of others arrived shortly thereafter and would capture the long table and get their chessboards setup. Soon more would arrive and the chess games started. The evening sun would blaze the window and the white and black chess pieces swirled the table and men (only men) would laugh and curse and then lose or win. Losers moved to the next chessboard and play the next winner and losers would move all around. It was like a symphony of life because there were no real winners or losers. Everyone got to play and then play again. Soon it was dark and the baristas would offer some free treats and in those days visit with the customers.
Now the time has changed and the long table still lives on but its full of millennials doing school or other stuff. A lot of Mac laptops bloom here and there is a constant buzz of conversation. I hear the swish of newspapers because here people still read classic papers.
Others come in and go out and buy drinks. I don’t know any of them any longer. Time has passed and the Starbucks that was is no longer. A new place has taken over and Erica no longer laughs as she expertly makes the drinks. Everything changes and the evolution of life at the Starbucks is like some ethnological study of culture change. New rules and mores apply. New values and norms are introduced and the culture goes on. Perhaps the old timers bring in their kids on a day and show them the big soft chairs in the corner and reminisce about those long ago days. Perhaps those new aspiring members see the new crowd and will come back.
Is Starbucks a conveyor of values and mores to our culture? Perhaps. Maybe the rules still apply and the shadows of those chess players from so long ago still dance the sunsets and like some ghost dance remind those that were here that the Starbuck universe is complete. The new members have come to their places and we all can watch as the stories are told. I did not hear any of these but on a whim,
Remember son that these moments in the soft chairs are important. They separate us from the others. Grab the chair and hold on to it. Park your backpack in it an its reserved. There’s the line. No cutting. There’s enough coffee for us all.
Then perhaps the day settles and the old timer and the new timer depart. One doubts he will return because the things he remembered are rapidly disappearing. Perhaps the young timer will return. Now the long table is his and he finds that the new millennial society is a perfect fit for studying.
I can still hear the clink of the chess pieces and the call outs of “Check and Checkmate”.
That was the yesteryear of my times. The values being transmitted are different and perhaps I’m not so invited and invested in knowing them. I’ve reached a age where I only take up a spot on the corner of the big table.
That and write a blog post and dwell on my rapidly diminishing days here. Will I ever see this particular Starbucks again after March? It does not matter. Starbucks is a cultural universal and I can study anthropology at any of them.