09212015 stressbucks

My anxiety isn’t as much of a debilitating problem now as it has been in the past, but it can still rear its ugly head in certain situations. Apparently, visiting a Starbucks is one such occasion.

I don’t frequent the chain very often and, as a result, I’m not as comfortable as those who get their fix there several times a day. I’m often left stupefied as I witness members of the Starbucks tribe effortlessly order their complicated sounding drinks. As someone who doesn’t speak Starbucks, it’s both fascinating and intimidating to watch someone who’s fluent in the language saunter up to the register, casually lean against the counter and confidently say, “I’ll have an iced, skyscraper, skeletor, quarter caff, flip-flop doohickey with triple unicorn tears and cumulonimbus foam.” 

Then, when it’s my turn, the best that I can muster is, “Um, I just… M-may I have some chai tea? In a… in a cup? Please?”

But one does not simply order tea on Planet Starbucks. What size? That’s a fair question, but don’t you dare ask for a small, medium or large. You’re at Starbucks! Speak Starbucks! Oh, and do you want ice? Milk? What kind of milk? Foam? Whipped cream? How much fat would you like in that? How about some drizzle? Surely you must need some flavored syrup, right? But, wait- there’s a smaller size that isn’t on the menu. Actually, as if you didn’t have enough choices already, there’s an entire secret menu of hacks that will make your drink taste like something out of the Harry Potter universe or like your favorite candy bar. So many options. SO MANY OPTIONS!

Look, I think options are great. However, it’s tough to make a decision when there are 20 antsy Starbuckians behind me in line, breathing down my neck, itching and trembling from withdrawals, longing for the impending moment when their tastebuds are reunited with whatever combination of caffeine and sugar will satiate them. Plus there’s the exhausted barista, impatient with my hesitation and eager to serve the growing mob behind me. In an effort to not be THAT person who holds up the line and ruins everyone’s day, my trips to Starbucks usually begin with an intense research session in the parking lot, poring over the menu on my phone to ensure that I don’t embarrass myself when it’s my turn to order. Once I think I’m ready, I walk inside repeating the order in my head like a mantra. I cannot be distracted. I cannot make eye contract with anyone. I have to focus on silently chanting these words until it’s my turn. Even with my extensive preparation, I’m riddled with stage fright at the register. I’ve performed in front of countless crowds and effortlessly memorized and delivered seriously complicated dialogue in my life, but this moment can reduce me to the hottest of messes.

I always try to at least act like I’ve got it together when I order. I tell myself to pretend that I’m doing a scene. When the barista greets me, I treat it as though a director has just said, “Action!” I take a deep breath, deliver my carefully rehearsed line and wait for my scene partner to respond… And that’s when the barista lets out an exasperated sigh and reads my order back to me the way that I should have said it. Some joker behind me chuckles at my ignorance. All I want to do is turn into metallic ooze, melt down into a sludgy mass and slink away like the title character from The Secret World of Alex Mack. 

Here’s what I really can’t stand: my immediate reaction is to apologize profusely for messing up. What am I apologizing for? Just tell the people what you want, fork over your money, wait for the cup that will probably say “Lou” and get on with your day. 

Maybe I’m being way too analytical about this, but it’s possible that Starbucks represents a microcosm of the way that I navigate the world as a whole; I don’t fit in, I can’t relate well to people and everything I say feels wrong.

The only times when I’ve felt at peace in a Starbucks is when I was there with my best friend Kelli, Queen of Coffee. When she lived here we made appearances at locations all over the Orlando area. Having a distraction from ordering greatly reduced my anxiety. With something else to focus on, I didn’t have to obsess over what to get.

Who cares what I order? Kelli & I need to get back to discussing the audition tapes that we’re about to record.

So, I got eye rolls & attitude for saying my order incorrectly again? Honestly, I barely noticed because I’m more interested in hearing the rest of Kelli’s sorry about the guy at work that she’s falling in love with.

Oh, I asked for this tea on ice & received it hot instead? Whatever, my homegirl & I are in the middle of a brainstorming session about characters that we can write for ourselves.

So maybe the key to having a less stressful visit is to Starbucks is to channel those times when I was so happy to be with my friend that I didn’t care where I was or what I was doing. Or, you know… I could just never go there again and drink my tea at home alone. That sounds nice, too. 

– Lew


20 thoughts on “STRESSBUCKS.

  1. You made me smile. I’m more likely to have the opposite problem – expecting hot tea but getting it cold and sweet. When I’m ordering, it doesn’t help I have a British way of saying things, or that I’ve not always been sure if the small silver coin can really be worth more than the big silver one. I’ve found the baristas are very kind – perhaps my accent helps – but I still travel with a jar of instant coffee!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Good luck – I hope you’re better at doing different accents than I am! Mine is a regional one but Americans don’t often pick that up and tell me I speak the Queen’s English – I always think ‘if only they knew!’

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Interesting analysis, especially when you compared your Starbucks experience with your life in general. I rarely go to Starbucks because I can’t drink caffeine. But, sometimes I really want a rooibos tea and I’ll go. I end up asking a million questions and don’t care what the crowd thinks behind me. But, it wasn’t always that way. Not too long ago I could relate to your experience word for word. The point is that you do fit in. Everyone does. When you step into the world of Starbuckians where everything is the same (they’ve developed their own culture) sometimes you need that person who comes in and wakes them up by being not so familiar with that world. Will it be a comfortable experience? No. But, we all grow when we see a world outside of ourself. You grow by experiencing and trying to adapt to thhe Starbucks world. They grow by trying to adapt with someone outside of that particular world. Love your piece. I’m sure there are many who struggle when walking into Starbucks. It really can be an intimidating experience.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wow, that’s so beautifully written! I really connected with, “we all grow when we see a world outside of ourself.” Sometimes it’s overwhelming for me, but your comment made me realize that my most illuminating experiences have come from doing just that. Thank you for telling me that I do fit in. Next time I walk into a Starbucks, or any intimidating atmosphere, I’m going to be much more fearless, embrace the experience & not beat myself up about it.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Oh, I loved this! I came across this through unamiuse, and I’m glad I did. I love your wit! You have completely nailed the Starbucks culture! It’s perfect. The title alone made me laugh. I finally went with my Starbucks-addicted sister-in-law once and understood why they’re always so backed up–the ordering process takes forever! I hadn’t been before because I’m just that impatient, even it I do like coffee. For the record, their coffee is a little bitter for me, but I do like the tea.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for reading, Tracey! You’re so sweet.
      It’s definitely a culture shock the first time. I don’t even drink coffee, so I usually opt for tea or the occasional cream frapp (Wow, did I say that right? Am I finally learning the language???)
      Someone just told me that now you can order and pay from the app instead of at the counter… I wish I’d prayed about it so that I could say that my prayers have been answered. In any event, I’m excited to try it out.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I love this post! Very funny yet oddly true. I don’t speak Starbucks either and can never remember the sizes. Oh how I wish I could just say ‘medium’. I remember when Starbucks was new and its selection far simpler that it was never an issue, but now its like you need a degree in advanced coffeenomics to order a medium house blend. Great post and I’m going to dive back into some of your other work now!

    Liked by 1 person

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