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.