And so this week’s moment of happiness despite the news.
Anyone who has read my books and stories knows that, usually, somewhere within the piece, Starbucks will appear. So will the grande cinnamon dolce latte, with only two pumps of cinnamon dolce, either iced or extra hot, depending on the season. That is my drink of choice.
Now before you yell that I don’t support the small business, I definitely do. I am one. And I frequent many independently owned coffee shops. My favorite is Espresso 101, right near my little house on the Oregon coast. It has a fabulous French toast latte. But Starbucks holds a place in my heart, for reasons that became apparent again this week, and I’ll show you why.
First, many years ago, when I was working on The Home For Wayward Clocks, I often wrote in a Starbucks because one near me had a fireplace. The baristas allowed me to come in, pull a table directly in front of the fireplace, and work. The fireplace would be on, night or day, summer or winter. Around me, the sounds of the coffee shop bolstered me and rocked me to its rhythm, but my eyes were locked on the screen. The baristas would quietly come by from time to time with a new drink for me…and not charge me.
By the time that book was published and released, I’d switched to another Starbucks, closer to my home, that had a drive-thru. Sometimes I sat inside, other times I whipped through the drive-thru and carried my drink home. But one day, after the book was published, I drove up to the drive-thru window and the barista leaned out. “Kathie,” he whispered, “there’s someone in the café reading your book!” Ohmygod. I got my drink, then parked my car and went inside. I sat where I could see the reader, and I watched her facial expressions and how quickly she turned the pages or hovered over one. When she prepared to leave, she picked up the book, hugged it to her chest, then put it in her backpack.
I was ecstatic.
In 2017, I was being treated for breast cancer. The baristas knew, because the day I was diagnosed, I went through the drive-thru. Tears were still streaming down my face. From that point on, everyone in that café was part of my support system. One barista, who realized she’d gone as long as I had without a mammogram, went in for hers and discovered she had breast cancer too. We went through it together.
But on the day of my partial mastectomy, after I came home from the hospital, I asked my son if he could go get me my favorite drink. I wasn’t allowed to drive right away and I was still too groggy from the anesthetic. My son drove up to the drive-thru and ordered an extra hot grande cinnamon dolce latte with just two pumps of cinnamon dolce. No one replied through the speaker for a minute, but then the barista said, “Is this for Kathie?”
“Yes,” my son answered. “She’s my mom.”
My son drove to the pick-up window, where several baristas were waiting. They wanted to know how I was. My latte was free. And when I held it after my son delivered it to me, I read all of the encouraging and supportive messages they’d written on my cup.
So this week. I’ve been fighting a cold for a while and, this week, it got worse. I coughed my voice away. When I pulled into the Starbucks drive-thru yesterday afternoon, I sounded like a frog with laryngitis. I croaked with a whisper. I was worried they wouldn’t be able to hear me over the speaker, and so I leaned out of my car as far as I could and did my best to whisper loudly.
There was a pause, and then a voice that I recognized said, “Kathie? Is that you?”
“Yes,” I whispered.
“Okay. I can see you through the screen. Do you want your usual? Give me a thumb’s up if you do.”
“Do you want it iced?”
“That’ll be great on a sore throat. Would you like something else?”
“Okay. Let’s see. What do you like? The cheese danish?” (which has also appeared in my books)
“Come on around.”
When I got to the window, I smiled at the barista whose voice I recognized. He recognized mine even when I didn’t sound like me. Several other baristas called hello and then told me to get better. When my barista handed out my drink, he said, “I wrote a message for you on the cup.”
As I drove home, I spun the cup, trying to see the message, but I didn’t see it. I thought maybe my stuffed ears heard wrong. But when I sat down at my desk, I looked a little closer and then tugged down the brown sleeve that my barista kindly tucked on so that I wouldn’t burn myself on my extra hot drink. There, under the sleeve, was, “Feel better soon!”
You know, sometimes it’s the little things that just make you feel better. Thank you, Reese at Starbucks.
And yes, that helps. Despite. Anyway.