I frequent a Starbucks down the street from my work, and so, when traffic traps me by work, I sometimes wait for it to calm down and become reasonable there. Because it’s relatively safe, and the baristas are nice.
But I also hang out there because once the day crowd of lawyers clear out, the most interesting people hang around. And since I don’t like talking to people I don’t know, I make up stories for them.
My favorite person to make up stories for is this older man. I usually pass him outside where he’s generally chatting with another guy over a cigarette. What’s remarkable about him is his appearance. Wiry, gray unruly hair stands out from under a well worn, dusty blue baseball cap. A matching beard of almost unreasonable length masks his chin. His t-shirt and jeans are clean and neat, but have obviously made the trek to Starbucks a time or two. And if you asked most people, I would be willing to bet that they would call him homeless. Because, outside the Starbucks, he matches almost every stereotype we have in the U.S. concerning the appearance of someone whose home lacks 4 walls and a roof.
But then he shuffles in through the door and generally bypasses the free water to take his seat. It’s usually at one of the tables close to the counter. If not, the view is clear. Because his coffee awaits where he’s marked his spot keeping his Dell laptop company. He sits behind the screen and appears to type, though he could be researching because the internet is free.
He’ll stay at the Starbucks for great lengths of time, wandering outside to chat, returning to sit behind his computer. I have no idea what he does, but I imagine he writes his thoughts about being discriminated against for looking poor. Or researching the topic of conversation happening out front, heading back when he’s learned a fact that makes his argument perfect. Or maybe he’s writing a novel about the evening crowd at the Starbucks.
Whatever he does, I’m glad he does it at the Starbucks. He manages to fulfill one stereotype while breaking another. In doing so, he makes the wait for traffic bearable.