I’ve always hated coffee. I’ve hated the smell of it brewing every morning and afternoon in my parent’s house. I’ve hated the taste of it, from the first time I tasted some in a brownie frapp when I was in high school. I’ve hated the look of it–whether it was black or light brown with cream–always a translucent liquid. I hated the sound of the beans grinding in the grocery store or even walking passed a coffee shop. I hated the look of it running down the side of a mug or puddling on the counter. And I hated more than anything the feel of it when it would splash onto my fingers while making an IC Mocha at Panera. Ew.
But I’ve always loved Starbucks. I love the atmosphere–the music, the paintings on the walls, the furniture, the colors, and the green siren in the logo. I love the pastries–even the simplest ones. I love the hot chocolate that tastes like a liquid chocolate bar. I love the “triple filtered tap water.” I love the tea–hot, cold, iced, sweetened, unsweetened, with lemonade, green, black, or passion. (Specifically: Iced venti sweetened green tea lemonade) I love the feeling I would get sitting in a Starbucks on a winter day in DC by the fire reading the Washington Post. I love the merchandise for sale, even the coffee mugs. I love their sandwiches, the oatmeal, and the small chocolates for sale by the registers. I love the look of someone carrying an Ethos bottle of water. I love how Starbucks has the New York Times for sale all over the US. But most of all, I loved working there.
It was my heart’s desire since I was 15. My dreams were shattered when I found out the law in Florida was 16 or 17 year olds could not work at Starbucks. So I settled for working at what I thought was the next best thing–a free standing Panera next to a Starbucks. That job lasted way longer than I thought–five years was not the plan. Then my dream came true–six years later, my heart’s desire was fulfilled. I even answered the ‘why do you want to work here’ question on the application, ”It’s been my heart’s desire since I was 15.” (Although, with no surprise, the ’what do you like most about coffee’ question was the most difficult to answer) I was the first person hired at my Starbucks in almost a year. 20 to 25 applications received each day and I just happened to turn mine in at the second the interim manager was standing out front. I felt like I could be myself there. It brought me back to life. I was used to a stale, stressful, emotionally unhealthy work environment and Starbucks was just the opposite.
And the question still wrestles in my head, why was I downsized along with half of my co-workers just four months after being hired?
And now, looking back on the short time I spent there, I realize that I would work there for free. It was that great.
My passion and love for Starbucks still exists–perhaps it’s even stronger now that I’ve worked there and still gone with my ‘California mentality’ about being open to trying new things. And you probably wouldn’t believe it, but yesterday I walked into a Starbucks and ordered a grande coffee. And I drank it all.
-Written in fall 2008 for my nonfiction workshop class at UCF