My year without Starbucks : (Part One)
62.6 miles. That was the distance my new ‘local’ Starbucks was from my new home. This is quite a shock to me given the fact that I passed three Starbucks in Washington on my way to “my” Starbucks. I had 22 Starbucks within 10 miles of my house plus the endless drive through and independent shops to keep my caffeine fix in check. Coffee shops in this part of the world is not just a fascination but a way of life and Starbucks is the king. Everyone had the same menu and in theory should have had the same tasting drinks. But it always seemed better at my regular place.
This was my coffee shop and it became my mobile office. I realized I could save a lot of money if I didn’t use my church office. Why should I pay for heat, lights, electricity, Internet and even the rent when I could for $2.12 a day get all of those at my local Starbucks. Venti black coffee with no room (Verona being my favorite) was my drink and the corner table was my spot.
Being a pastor it was very important to hold office hours at a Starbucks. You were not a real pastor if you didn’t spend at least 10 hours a week in the lobby with your Bible or computer open. This had several purposes. The greatest of them was that you were keeping your claim on that particular neighborhood and that all other pastors were not welcome to proselytize these people. My particular Starbucks was shared by the Catholic priest and myself. We had a good working and personal relationship as we would check in with each other several times a week. The Baptist and independent church pastors would come in to get a drink but rarely ever stay. Why? Because this was my Starbucks.
Many times other pastors from my very own denomination would show up and sit down. Mine being one of the smaller churches in the area I saw this as a blatant disrespect towards boundaries. I would find that many came just to have a break and not be disturbed as they would at their coffee shop. When you went to another shop even though the coffee, the smells, the chairs, the decorations and even the bathrooms were the same. But the people there were different. And sometimes it was good to just have a change of scenery. So I allowed day passes for other pastors to use my Starbucks.
My Starbucks was the one that when I entered all those working there and many of the customers in the lobby acknowledged me and most knew my name. I would sit in the lobby many days and occupants of the chair on the other side of the table would rotate all day long. Some would be Baristas on their breaks that just wanted to chill. Other times it would be someone I was helping with life issues. Many times as the place filled up I would just invite a random person to have a seat.
However, real work still had to get done and I wouldn’t be available all the time just to chat. So I learned and perfected the ‘way of the ear-bud’. I realized that if you put ear-buds in as if you were listening to music people would be more apt not to talk to you. Many times I would not even have them plugged into anything or no music was playing. One still needs to be disciplined in not acknowledging anyone that might be talking next to you even if you could hear them. You never wanted to cross the ear-bud barrier. Some of the strangest conversations would take place just inches from my ears and people for some reason would think that I was not listen just because I had earphone in.
If you were just sitting there reading or working and didn’t have your earphone on that meant anyone could come over to talk to the pastor. I was open for business and looked forward to seeing how I could help those in my neighborhood.
“Oh pastor can we talk?”
“Sure I don’t have my earphones on.”
Lots of great things would happen in that lobby. Great blogs were written, websites updated, messages prepared, people’s lives changed all over a cup of coffee.
So you can see my trepidation when I Google mapped the distance to nearest Starbucks from where I was moving to in Wisconsin. 62.6 miles away seemed like quite a distance for a neighborhood coffee shop and I penciled out the cost of travel and it no longer made financial sense to office at Starbucks. I started to really question how anyone could run a church in the Northwoods without a Starbucks. I just assumed those two thing were in a symbiotic relationship. Both were two very distinct entities but both still needed the other. Church plus coffee shop equaled a balanced life to me.
But being the wild and crazy adventurous person that I am I declared to my west coast friends I was going to go a whole year without Starbucks. “What? No way!” came their responses to my seemingly naive comments. No one could go that long. It was ok to visit an independent coffee for special occasions and some would say that doing a drive though coffee hut was ok. But not going back to the Mother-ship on regular basis was blasphemous to the coffee evangelist.
Studies have actually been done that people, not to be shamed from their coworkers, would reuse a paper cup from Starbucks and put their own home brew in it. As they would enter the elevator or opening the door to their office building they would proudly display the green Starbucks Siren logo facing out. People had been known to put water in their logo embossed cups just to fit into the way of life of the Pacific Northwest. It was a way of life and one that is not easily released from.
I needed to break from the gang and my patch was going to be ripped from my leather coat. It would be painful and emotional to tell my friends that I was out of the club. Many didn’t show any mercy at my blatant disregard for all that is good and holy. “62.6 miles. Big deal. Get over it. Make the trip. Don’t sell out.” Was my friends non-sympathetic responses back to me.
They had lived in the promise land of coffee with over 400 Starbucks shops in the Seattle metro area alone and had no comprehension how the rest of the world could possible live. Wisconsin had a bit over 80 in the whole state and rank at 34th per capita. Washington States per capita ranking is 2nd just after the District of Columbia. The reality, as hard as it might be to comprehend, was that I didn’t have one even remotely close to me. Because of this my declaration that I would not drink Starbucks for a whole year seemed to be a relatively easy one to say.
My bold declaration to not drink Starbucks for a year was on.