New Found Good in Humanity

A few weeks ago, while I was in the middle of my “Becoming, Being, and Leaving Greek” series, I had an amazing thing happen to me that I have enjoyed telling others because it has really strengthened my belief that maybe there are some good people left in the world.

As I have previously mentioned, money for me is tight almost all the time. I don’t make much at my job that I have and after benefits and taxes, I take home less than $1800 a month. I’ve become diligent in the last few months, however, cutting down my spending to, well…non-existent.

But there’s one exception: Starbucks.

I have to have Starbucks every day. It is a terrible addiction that I wish I hadn’t ever developed, but working an 8am-5pm job Monday-Friday slowly drains my energy. So, I’ve limited my spending to the necessities: rent, gas, car payment, bills, and coffee. I reached the “Starbucks Gold” level in less than a month after activating a gift card I received for my birthday. I am at the same Starbucks every day, where the employees know me by first and last name and my drink right down to my specifications to the point to where it is ready before I even reach the register (if there’s a line). A few Saturdays ago, however, I went to a different Starbucks a few miles from my house. I entered the drive-through line, after an indecisive, half-in-half-out Land Rover decided to leave the line. I ordered a drink for myself, my boyfriend, and a small chocolate donut. The total was $7.67 and I pulled forward, ready to pay with my reloaded Starbucks card. I noticed the car in front of me was a silver Accord with some old decals from UCF on the back window. I had my excited-in-all-drive-through-lines Jack Russell in the car with me who was bouncing around the passenger seat and dashboard eager to receive his milk bone treat when we reached the window.

I pulled up to the window after the Accord, and my drinks were handed to me right away. I started to hand the barista my card when she said, “She just paid for you.”

My mouth was gaping as I grabbed the drink. “Wh-what? What?”

“She just paid for your order,” the barista said, smiling.

“The whole thing? Are you serious?” I said.

“Yes, the whole thing. Does he want a treat?” the barista asked.

“Ye-yes please! Get out of town! I can’t believe she paid for my whole order!” I took the treat from her and gave it to my dog who swallowed it nearly whole.

“It happens a lot here. People doing random acts of kindness I guess,” she said.

“Are you serious? I can’t believe it,” I said.

“Yes, if I see her again, I’ll let her know what a smile she brought to your face,” the barista said as I started to drive away.

The whole ride home, I was hoping to see the silver Accord going in the same direction as me but I never did. I got back to my apartment to find my boyfriend waiting for me. When I told him what had just happened, his first response was, “You’re kidding.”

I shared the great news on Twitter with my followers. One response was, “On purpose or an accident?” It was most certainly on purpose and I cannot express how impressed I was by that lady to pay for my entire almost eight dollar order.

Since I started supporting myself fully a little over a year ago, I’ve learned more than I could explain about money. I still have a lot to learn about it though, unfortunately. But, more recently, I’ve learned the value of one dollar. I’ve learned, through paying all of my bills every month and literally leaving my checking account down to cents, just how much every cent and every dollar is worth. And, yes, I realize that $7.67 is a lot to spend on coffee for two people, but I like it to be my contribution sometimes!

I don’t want to say that this lady “picked the right person to pay for,” because that sounds selfish, but I believe that she did pick someone who was more than appreciative of what she did for me. I feel like a lot of people would have said, “Oh thanks,” and not thought about it much after that because it’s not a big deal to them. And I’ll admit, too, that though I was raised to be appreciative of anything anyone does for me (even driving me places or holding doors open), I am even more grateful since I’ve started supporting myself fully.

I’ve been challenged by pastors in church a few times to pay for someone else’s order at McDonald’s or Starbucks, but I haven’t actually done it before. This may sound selfish (again), but sometimes I think to myself, “Why would I want to do that for someone when people treat other people the way they do?” I guess you can say that over the years I’ve developed a mentality that most people are not good at heart. Most people wouldn’t turn in a wallet they found on the street bursting with cash. Most people wouldn’t pick up a dead animal in the road or even break for one. At least, not anymore.

But this lady proved me wrong. It turns out, there are some good people left in the world.

I’d like to challenge anyone who reads this to pay for the person behind them at Starbucks, or McDonald’s, or even at a sit down restaurant pay for the table next to you. Even if you never see the person’s reaction, remember that they may be someone who was eternally grateful for one small thing you did for them that made their day.

Learn How To Order a Drink at Starbucks!

As an avid Starbucks drinker and former employee of the company, I have decided to give an “ordering a Starbucks drink” tutorial. Many of my friends ask me why there’s so much lingo involved in ordering a drink and don’t know to order it themselves based on what they want. They laugh at me when I use the language when ordering a drink, but really, after working there, it became second nature. I don’t know how to not order a drink using the correct lingo!

A startling statistic they told us when I worked there was that 90% of the people that go into a Starbucks simply order a “coffee” because they are afraid of trying to order something else because they don’t know how to say it. That is sad to me, because this means that 90% of the people going into a Starbucks are not ordering what they truly want, just because they are afraid of saying it wrong!

Now, allow me to explain the correct way to order a drink. This was a difficult process for me to learn when working there because evidently there is a certain order things are said–and that is the vertical order of the boxes you see on the side of the cup. The side of a Starbucks cup looks a little something like this:

Please ignore the EGTL at the bottom. Pretend it’s blank — I borrowed this photo from

There are two things that must be clarified on a drink order that are NOT options on the cup:

  • If it’s iced, always say “iced” first. This lets the barista know which cup to grab to start writing the drink order on.
  • Size of the drink. Tall is “small” (12oz), grande is “medium” (16oz), and venti is “large” (20oz for a hot, 24oz for iced), and the newly added trenta is 31oz, or “extra large.”
  • DECAF: this is the first box. If someone wants decaf, you would say “decaf.” If someone wants half decaf, half regular, you would say, “half caf.” The espresso machines have a special button to pull a shot that is half and half, so don’t be afraid to order that if you’d like it! It’s really not more trouble like a lot of people presume.
  • SHOTS: Number of shots, if it’s different from the normal amount. A tall drink has one shot and a grande and venti contain two. If you wanted two shots in a tall, for instance, you would say, “double tall.” If you wanted an extra shot in a grande, you would say, “triple grande.” Four shots? “Quad grande” or “quad venti.” I’ve never really heard an order for a drink with more than four shots, but I feel like anything further than that, the baristas just say “five shots” or “six shots.” Usually if someone wants that much coffee they order an espresso or iced espresso.

RANDOM FACT: The most caffeinated drink you can order at Starbucks is a black coffee. This has more caffeine than a quad venti latte, for instance, or a triple grande cappuccino. Many people think the more shots they get in a drink, the more caffeine. While that is true if you want a drink with steamed milk or foamed milk, if you flat out want a lot of caffeine, order a black coffee.

  • SYRUP: If there’s any special flavoring–vanilla, peppermint, cinnamon dolce, hazelnut, etc. Starbucks also offers sugar free options for vanilla, hazelnut, and caramel.
  • MILK: The kind of milk–2% is the default for all drinks, but if you want whole, say “whole.” If you want skim, say “nonfat.” Soy is also available, simply by saying “soy.”
  • CUSTOM would be, for instance, if someone wanted two pumps of chocolate instead of three for a tall, which is the default. (Really you’d have to know just how many pumps of chocolate are in each size, which few people know so this is rarely said) “2 pump mocha” would be the lingo for that. Or, if someone doesn’t want whipped cream, you would say, “no whip” in this category.
  • DRINK: Finally, the easy part. What drink do you want? Latte is espresso and steamed milk topped with a little foam. Cappuccino is espresso with foamed milk sitting on top. Most people know the difference here, but this the very last thing you say after all the customizations.

So, to practice using all of the fields, I’ll pretend to be the “difficult” customer with a lot of “wants” for my drink. Someone says they want a small mocha, but it’s outside so they want it over ice. They want it decaf and an extra shot in it. They don’t want whipped cream and they want skim milk. They don’t want a lot of chocolate either. And they want a little vanilla added to it. Oh geez, how on earth would you order that?

Picture the side of the drink cup and say each thing in the order of the cup.

Iced double tall decaf nonfat vanilla one pump mocha no whip mocha.

Those kinds of drinks are rare, where someone fills in every box, but it does happen sometimes. And reading that off when passing off the drink is insane! Usually brings a lot of laughs and thoughts like, “wow, what a high maintenance person.” While it sounds like they’re high maintenance, they are really just specifying the drink to their liking, which is why all Starbucks’ drinks are handcrafted and custom made for each customer! I would say that out of the apparent 10% of people who do order a drink other than a simple coffee because they know how to order it, they order it with some kind of a specification.

So, there you have it. Starbucks lingo–explained! Starbucks language–decoded! Any other questions? Feel free to ask away!

I know a lot of you may have read this before, but here’s an insight to my soul:

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