Sunday, February 01, 2015

Be True To Your Café

As a habitual Starbucks customer, I feel funny going into a similar place, like Dunkin Donuts or Panera. It's as if I am betraying Starbucks by crossing the threshold of their doorway, standing in line, ordering coffee, and sitting down at a table. 

What do I owe Starbucks? I’m just a customer. I’ve never worked there and I don’t even own their stock. Yet my mind harbors some sense of allegiance. It's the café I go to far more than any other. So when I'm at another large chain café, I feel some sense that I am intruding on enemy territory. 

Either you’re with us or you’re against us. Are most of us Starbucks people, or Dunkin Donuts people or Panera people? I think many of us do associate ourselves primarily as a “member” of one of these cafes, even though we’re willing to go to others on occasion. But primary allegiance to one doesn't preclude frequenting another. 

In some way, my mind feels it “belongs” in the Starbucks camp by virtue of deciding to go there of my own free will most of the time. It started out simply as the most convenience place, considering where I lived and where I worked. If some other café had been nearbywould that one now be my favorite? No, because I can think of other cafes near in a geographical sense. So it's something more. The atmosphere, the menu, exiting that cafe and traveling on to the next place. 

I know by sight most of the baristas when I walk into a familiar Starbucks. It’s almost as if they’re friends or family. In a strange café, I don’t recognize anyone behind the counter. They are foreign, unknown, potentially dangerous. And how do they feel about Starbucks or other cafes? Hatred? Jealousy at having been turned down for a job? Comrades in the same business? A potential future employer? Will they fill my order correctly? Or will I receive rotten service? 

At Dunkin Donuts, I see contrasting tactics, techniques, and procedures. They put the cream and sugar in the coffee cup, not you. That alone is often a deal-breaker in my mind. Who doesn't want to put their own milk in their own coffee? 

Suppose I walked up to the Dunkin Donuts counter wearing a Starbucks t-shirt. Would they make a joke about it? Guarantee my coffee sucks? Would anyone care or notice? 

When all is said and done, did I get what I wanted out of that café visit? Positive interaction with the barista, good coffee and sandwich, pleasant people around me, a nice atmosphere, the lighting isn’t too bright. 

Did anyone from Starbucks see me in there? Will a customer report me to them? Unseen communication between the staffs of all the cafes? Strange ideas pop into my head when I'm not "true to my café."

Be True To Your Café 

Café hoppin Friday night 
Man that scene it’s outa sight! 
Got some nerve wearin that shirt 
Some don’t like it, be alert. 

Wear that logo every day, 
Mfav'rite haunt I won't shun. 
"Ain’t you heard of my café? 
In this world it's number one." 

Seen him before across town 
Deny his spot like a clown. 
Where’s the talk and where’s the brawl? 
Backs down even with his doll. 

So be true to your café 
Over here or over there. 
Rise up and do it your way, 
Reveal the colors you wear. 

"My place is best, down that way, 
Beats your hangout any day." 
Laughing, he spins his plain dame, 
Legions heed him, it's a shame. 

Tunes! I whirl my girl so chic. 
"Have you heard of my café? 
In this world it's at the peak. 
I won't bend, I won’t betray." 

Now be true to your café 
In the night or in the day, 
In the dark or in the light, 
Don’t back away from the fight. 

Buy my short story collection I mostly wrote in cafes: Queen of the Chess Cult and Other Stories

Buy my novel, written mostly in cafes: Murder at the Library Conference:

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