Starbucks Coffee and the Tragedy of Adulthood

(A post from The Unconventional Newlywed blog…)

Let’s take a moment to acknowledge a curmudgeonly resurrection of unconventionalness.

I wish I still working at Starbucks. 

Granted, it was a job I held only to earn enough caffeine and cash to make it to the next step in life. But, here I am in the next step and it’s not all it’s cracked up to be.

Take me back to those underpaid hourly wages!

Give me back the smell of Arabica beans in my hair!

Return to me the desire to eat a day-old pumpkin loaf because it’s free and I’m broke!

Instead, I spend $27 on two cups of joe like the middle class sap I’ve become.

Ye olde cranky nostalgia started yesterday, with an innocuous mid-day Starbucks run with the boy. The Starbucks baristas welcomed us with their reliable enthusiasm, bouncing around the counters and purring the virtues of eggnog.

When I casually added a pound of Thanksgiving Blend coffee to my order, the cashier barista literally squealed in delight.

That squeal awakened something dormant within me. Something dusty and mournful.

Remember when the hardest part of my workday was trying to sell a couple pounds of coffee?

Even if I was really terrible at convincing people to spend $15 on beautiful packaging (which I actually wasn’t), all I had to do to recover relevance was churn out a line of perfect Peppermint Mochas with a coffee-stained smile.

It was a simpler time.

Also, I worked with great people.

Simple times. Great people. Coffee. 

Actually, my memories of baristahood may actually be Folgers commercials from the 90s…

…yes, that’s pretty much how it looks in my head.

Regardless, there is something valuable in the life of a straightforward service job.Expectation is clear, routine is a given, collaboration is essential.

And the best part? Camaraderie is built-in. When you gotta work eight hours in a droll costume of perpetually spilled milk, superficiality is a rare bird. Or maybe I got stuck with an especially great bunch of coffee monkeys. (That’s likely it.)

Whatever the case, the drive back to my office was one of pumpkin-scented wistfulness. Why can’t we work at the simpler, Starbucks jobs in life and still be adults with satisfying lives and income sufficient to pay all the adult-sized bills?

Oh, right, because we are living the dream. The well-educated, well-traveled American dream of cubicle corporate life.  

(Also, there is a strong economic argument in here for leadership grooming, but that’s beside my rant point.)

We must always be moving “onward and upward,” as the lowercased executive likes to say. And ironically, while working at Starbucks, I felt static. Somehow, I needed to fulfill a bigger cause.

Alas, working as a barista and alongside another part time job, attending full-time graduate school classes, volunteering, getting good grades…this is a romantic past life because that stage of existence is over.

It was a means to something better. Something more rich and sustainable. 

But for now, all I have that fits that description is the sales pitch on the side of this pound of Starbucks coffee.

Well played, Siren, well played.

You mock me.