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    Coffee Break

    The root of my dependence to Starbucks was stemmed from my former job.  It wasn’t that I needed a “morning jolt” or that I even really liked the taste of Starbuck’s teas and coffees.

    My daily morning trip to Starbucks occurred, because after 5 minutes of sitting at my desk, I felt the need to take a break. And because there was a Hallmark and a Starbucks in the lobby of my former office, I figured it might as well be a coffee break.

    Don’t think though that- on the extra annoying days- I didn’t take a Hallmark break as well. Ask my family and friends- for those three years working at my former job, they all received an abundance of greetings cards. During a bad patch- where I was working crazy hours- my friends must have wondered why they each received a “Just Because” greeting card. I played the “thoughtful card” and didn’t tell them that it was “Just Because I needed a damn break.”

    “May I have a large iced coffee with sugar-free vanilla syrup?” I’d order.

    “A Venti?” The cashier would ask.

    “Yeah, the largest size,” I’d say quickly, frustrated that I was getting a translation lesson first thing in the morning.

    It didn’t take long for me to learn the language. Pretty soon, I was the one who was speaking it fluently and noticing Starbucks tourists, those who didn’t speak the language.  They’re easy to spot, just like any tourist.

    As I became a “Regular,” my perception of The Regular who always got to Starbucks 2 minutes before my colleague and I changed. I initially thought his order of a “Grande Skinny Vanilla Latte in a Venti cup with an extra shot of Sugar-Free Vanilla and one splenda” made him a putz.  Then, once I achieved “regularity,” he became “a Pro.”

    “The more they specify in their order, the bigger the ass,” my colleague once said to me. “I get a iced green tea and call it a day,” she continued.

    “Some people are here to customize their drinks into something delicious; they’re not here, because they need a break.” I replied.

    I soon learned that there was more to the break other than getting a somewhat decent cup of iced coffee. It didn’t take long for Tamara- the cashier who took my order every day and often made the drinks- to start making my drink even before I ordered. She was so on it, that she’d even have my tall iced water ready, to accompany my Venti Iced Coffee with Sugar-Free Vanilla.  This impressed me and made me feel welcome.

    One summer, I went to Israel, and missed 10 days of work. When returning to the states, Tamara was more relieved and excited to see me than my friends were.

    “GIRL, I thought you were fired!” She cried.

    “No, I was out of the country for the last two weeks,” I explained as she wrote my order on the cup.

    “You went out of the country and didn’t tell me?” She exclaimed. “In the future, you gotta warn me. I was really worried about you, hoping you got COBRA!”

    You know a company delivers a great experience to you, when you feel guilty for not informing your barista about your travels.

    Soon after that, I started taking advantage of Starbucks’ rewards and loyalty programs. After registering my Strabucks card, I was offered free coffee refills throughout the day. And any avid Starbucks customer is well aware, that when you receive the green receipt in the morning, you absolutely must get your $2.00 frozen beverage after 2:00 pm.

    When my boss went on Maternity Leave the following summer, and the workload got a lot heavier, you better believe I was taking full advantage of those free refills and two buck Frappucino Lights.  Thanks, Starbucks.

    Then that fall, Tamara got promoted to a Manager, which transferred her to the Starbucks a few blocks away. We celebrated with shots of Espresso. I was sad to see her go, happy for her career success, and wired all morning.

    A few months later, I resigned. I debated walking a few blocks across the street to let Tamara know. Nah, I thought to myself. That’s creepy. Now that I don’t see her everyday, it wouldn’t make a difference anyways.

    Just in case she got transferred back to her former location, I let the cashier Sue know that I resigned. God forbid she think I get fired again.

    Then, I started working at my current job. Shockingly, there’s a Starbucks right under my office building. Starting a new job with a bright and fresh outlook, you’d think I wouldn’t be in need of a coffee break. But as avid Starbucks customers know, habits are hard to break. So, for the sake of tradition- and because let’s face it, caffeine’s addicting- I continued going to Starbucks.

    And then I met Kate.

    “Rise and shine and how can I make you happy today?” she’d say to me in a monotone voice as I approached the cash register. This continued to be her salutation- only to me- even when she was well aware that the answer was a “Venti Iced Coffee with Sugar Free Vanilla and an iced water.”

    Something about it- maybe her monotone coupled with the enthusiastic words- bothered me. It seemed condescending. Why does she only say that to me? I’d think. Even when she wasn’t taking my order, and she was making the drinks, she’d hand me my drink with a “Rise and shine and I hope you have a great day.”

    Once my gold card came in the mail, and I was notified I reached Gold Level Status, I started reevaluating my habit, thinking of all I could buy for approx. $4 a day, and better yet, how I could better spend that $20 a week or $80 a month. I’d love to say philanthropy crossed my mind, but I was thinking of the designer bag a 6 month coffee strike would get me.

    I took a quick break from my habit, but painfully missed my coffee break, and realized that some habits are priceless.

    Then, one morning, Kate handed me my drink with a  “Here you go.” I was stunned, and preceded upstairs to my office. Reading my morning emails, I couldn’t help but wonder if she were ok.

    The next morning, as she made my drink, before she could say anything to me, I blurted out “RISE AND SHINE AND HOW CAN I MAKE YOU HAPPY TODAY?”It was the first time I had seen her smile. And it was a big, genuine smile that made me smile.

    We all need a break from our daily grind. For me, mine is a coffee break. For Tamara, hers is building relationships. And for Kate, hers is taking the time to crack a smile. The good news for Tamara and Kate is that when they skip a break, it doesn’t make them start shaking and twitching.

    One Response to “Coffee Break”

    1. brooke says:

      love this one!!!xoxo

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