starbucks security

starbuckssecurity

Coffee has been around for centuries and is one of the most consumed and most agriculturally exported products in the world. It has played a pivotal role in everything from religious ceremonies, to political rebellions to the firing of interns. [sound crazy? Check wikipedia…] Yet, it had flown under the radar in the US until it became a mainstream and hip commodity. In 1971, the first Starbucks opened in Seattle, Washington and once the ‘90s hit, they were popping up all across the country at a pace of literally one a week.  The coffee world hasn’t been the same since.

I am hardly a coffee connoisseur. I couldn’t tell you if Starbuck’s tastes any better and I certainly don’t know how well they treat their farmers. All I can tell you is that whenever I need a coffee, there’s always a green Starbucks sign glowing nearby and inside will always be regular black coffee for $2. That’s all I ask for.

What amazes me the most isn’t that the Pike’s Place roast and the Frappuccino have basically become members of my extended family. Or that the change of seasons is indicated to me by the arrival of Pumpkin Spice Lattes and Peppermint Mochas instead of weather trends and the color of leaves. What truly amazes me about Starbucks, at least in Los Angeles, is their unshakable foothold in the Meet ‘n Greet industry.

Over the course of a year, a person has tons of meetings. I am no different. In 2010 I had meetings of all kinds: social, professional, impromptu, pleasant, awkward, forgettable – all shapes and sizes. But there was one common thread that they all shared.

They were all at a Starbucks.

Whether I was catching up with a friend or pitching to an executive – we were always meeting at a Starbucks. I’ve met people at their offices and then walked with them to a Starbucks because, well, that’s just where people meet and talk.

(I wonder what people would say if I asked them to meet me at a “Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf”…)

It’s a new millennium and the long mahogany table and leather chairs of boardrooms have been replaced with the metal patio furniture and foam cups of a national chain coffee house.

Starbucks has also laid claim to the “place to waste time” corner of the market. Any time I need to kill a quick twenty minutes between errands or appointments, I whip out the Blackberry and search for the nearest Starbucks. I wish I didn’t but I do. Where I previously may have moseyed around a strip of mom and pop shops or enjoyed the fresh air of a park – I settle for what I know: regular black coffee, foam cup, cardboard sleeve, soft music, $2.

“Dude Drew, is there gonna be a story here or what?” — Yes. Sorry. Thanks for keeping me on track.

One fateful day in 2010 I was wasting time in Venice (California, not Italy)…

[FUN FACT: There are Starbucks chains in over 50 countries and Italy is not one of them. Nice work over there. Keep to your roots]

… so I sat down at a Starbucks. It was a nice day so, me and my dearest friend Black Coffee (I just call him Coffee, I don’t wanna sound racist) grabbed a seat outside and started sipping away the time.

There I was, minding my own business, ignoring those around me, and toiling away at a screenplay that’ll never get sold – ya know, the same shit everyone does at Starbucks in LA – when a man entered the scene. He had just placed his bike against the wall when he turned to me and said – “Hey man, would you mind watching my bike for me?” I, of course, said “Sure.” You can’t exactly say “No, man. I’m not your bitch.” That’s bad manners.

I found it incredibly interesting that a person would entrust a complete stranger with their belongings. The only tasks this guy could immediately tell I was qualified for were ‘sitting – drinking coffee – wearing jeans and a button down’ none of which imply a background in security. It was a strategy I didn’t find effective but, even with that in mind, I kept a very keen eye on that gentlemen’s bicycle.

I don’t think there’s been a time in my life when I’ve embraced a position so fully; especially not one that I was volunteered for out of the blue. Anyone that past by the bike got a stern glare from me and if they as much as shifted their eyes in the direction of that Schwinn I would quickly ask them for some identification. Unfortunately, it only took my new boss a few minutes to get his coffee so when he came back I was only halfway done with my “Bicycle Security” badge, that I was forging out of my receipt. He gave me a nod, said “thanks” and rode off.

I should have been contemplating why the hell someone would want to drink coffee while riding a bike – that has ‘burn the shit out of the roof of my mouth’ written all over it – but I couldn’t stop thinking about my new position as Starbucks Security guard.

My fantasies of arresting patrons who took too many napkins or didn’t clean up the excessive cinnamon they shook all over the counter were interrupted by the unthinkable. A woman had sat at a table across from me and opened up a Macbook computer. She walked over to me and said:

“Hey, could you watch my computer while I grab a drink?”

I could practically hear the tires squeal in my brain as my opinion took a complete 180. When I’d successfully protected the man’s bike, I was proud. Now that a second person had asked me to watch their stuff, I couldn’t help but think – why are people so quick to trust me? Do I have “I won’t steal your shit” tattooed on my forehead? I just then realized, I do not have nearly enough street cred.  Apparently all of these ideas where manifesting themselves into a facial expression that said, “why would you trust me?” because the woman followed up with:

“I see that you have a Macbook as well so I know you won’t steal mine.”

Hahaha. Listen lady, all that me having a Macbook should tell you, is that I have the ability to get on Ebay and sell your computer to the highest bidder. You’re right that I don’t personally want your computer but some kid in Iowa might and I would love to sell it to him. I’ll even give him Free Shipping because, hell, I’m a nice guy.

Despite all of the tough guy thoughts running through my head, I still agreed to watch her computer. I thought about watching her computer make it’s way onto Craigslist but, as avid readers know, crime is hardly my strong suit. Not only did I not steal her computer – I protected it from any other passing criminals who were in the market for a new Apple.

Having been more or less forced into playing the Good Samaritan card twice in a 15-minute period, I decided that I needed to make myself look tougher. It will be impossible for me to get anywhere on time if people keep stopping me and asking me to watch their stuff. I was pretty sure that I was one well-pressed polo shirt away from being drug into babysitting someone’s kids on the Santa Monica pier.

I thought, “Who is the one person I would trust least to watch my things?” It didn’t take me long to realize the answer. The scariest and most socially irresponsible person in the world – a man you wouldn’t trust to watch paint dry. I’m, of course, talking about Mike Tyson.

Now, I couldn’t make myself any taller and matching Mike’s muscle mass would take months so I had to focus on the part where I could achieve the quickest results: the face tattoo. I feel like nothing in this world says “I make bad decisions” like a permanent ink drawing on your face. I could get it done on only the right side of my face so when people approached me, hopeful, from the left I could turn and watch them re-consider their choice for “shit supervisor.” This was going to be perfect.

I sat outside Starbucks, drawing out temp tattoo sketches and waiting for someone to approach me. I couldn’t wait for them to ask me to keep an eye on their backpack so that I could respond with something Tyson-esque like “I’m gonna eat your family.”

No one else approached me that day – probably because I snarled at most the people who came by looking for their mid-afternoon mocha – but all the same, I was midway through my rough draft of made up gang signs I planned to have needled into my forehead when I realized I was running late. I had gotten so invested in my new image that I had lost all track of time. I wonder if Mr. Tyson does that a lot…

I packed up my stuff, vowed to finish my drawings later that day and headed off to my next meeting. A meeting which was, undoubtedly, at a Starbucks a few blocks away.

- dc

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