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“What did you call it?” I ask. The strange word has piqued my curiosity.
No. 1, working the cash, has referred my order to No. 2, who is piloting the cappuccino machine. “Spinny,” says No. 2, “It’s Starbuck’s slang!”
I reckon the short-form of ‘spinach-feta wrap’ isn’t just about saving syllables. I suspect the clever dialect, like the secret password between undercover agents, is central to the culture—one of the fringe benefits of the work.
With a piping hot spinny in one hand, and a grande dark roast in the other, I take my seat at the bar where I have a bird’s-eye view of the morning.
It’s noisy but the soundtrack stirs my home-workers’ soul and offers temporary relief from my isolation. I love the combination of jazzy music, sloshing liquids, shooting steam, grinding beans and the clanking of stainless steel.
I watch as No. 2 moves seamlessly from one job to another to another. All the while he has a positive attitude and there are no complaints, no, “Oh, come on! I just did a caramel macchiato!”
I take a moment to admire the accidental brilliance that is the choreography here. Cameras could roll, and no art direction or rehearsals would be needed.
The line starts to grow. As if guided by an unseen force of comradeship, No. 2 moves in to help No. 1 on the cash. She doesn’t even need to ask, he just knows that she needs him. If married people could work together this intuitively the divorce rate would plummet. Perhaps Starbucks should adapt their training regime to a marriage preparation course.
Anyway, the training isn’t rocket science. Essentially, it’s the Protestant work ethic—don’t ask how you can be helpful, just look around and make yourself useful. But in this case the labour has a much, much, happier face on it.
No. 2 puts a cinnamon bun in the convection oven and then glides back to the cappuccino machine to fix the Venti extra-something caramel macchiato for Stacy in the red bandana. That’s a lot of sugar to start the day, but Stacy has chosen to hold the whip cream. Good choice Stacy!
Two children in matching tie-died t-shirts pull up to the bar alongside me. The cinnamon bun—correction, it is a brioche—is for them. The girl puts her stuffed panda on the counter and begins to pick her nose. I gag, but only a little bit because I have a child and I’m used to seeing disgusting things. The boy is more civilized: He eats his brioche in layers, starting with the outside.
A young soldier in camouflage takes up the back of the line which now approaches the door. A young, fresh-faced, red-haired woman with a brioche-esque bun on the top of her head joins him. They are not together, per se, but their closeness and common pursuit of a fancy cuppa Joe implies a kind of togetherness. I think they might make a cute couple but there’s no way to make the match.
In addition to the growing list of orders that must be filled, and the ever-increasing line, which is now out the door, No. 2 is also doubling as a tourism ambassador for the Limestone City: “The building with the dome, what is that?” asks the mother of the nose-picker and the brioche-eater, “City Hall,” says No. 2, with a warm smile.
Without skipping a beat, No. 2 passes around a tray of free samples in Dixie-type cups with the Starbuck’s logo on them. The artful whip cream swirls make it look like a miniature snow-capped mountain range. When in God’s name did he find time to make these?
From my perch at the bar, I can see all of the colourful characters in the line. I was right about the slackers. The worker bees have found their way to the hive. Two men in suits stand out in the crowd. They seem to be talking shop. I can’t make out the details, but a big deal is afoot. Compared to everyone else they are over-dressed. But we need them, and their silk neckties, to remind us of the real world we’ve come here to avoid.
I look down for just a moment and when I look up again the crowd has thinned almost as quickly as it once swelled. Somehow, all of the people have been absorbed into the womb and then pushed back out into the world anew, carrying white cups of comfort wrapped in cardboard sleeves.
My spinny is done. My bladder is full. The washroom is out-of-order. Loneliness or not, I must be moving on. There is a man outside in a wheelchair with a cup and a sign that reads, “Can you spare some change?”
Yes, I think, reaching for some loose coins. After all of this, that’s the least I can do.