Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Your Field Guide to the Denizens of Starbucks

The Nine Types of People You’re Certain to Encounter the Next Time You Pick Up a Salted Caramel Mocha Latte


I love and hate Starbucks. On one hand, there’s no denying that their coffee and coffee-like products are incredibly delicious -- albeit stupidly overpriced -- but as far as the general atmosphere the chains typically foster and promote? It’s enough to make a man wanna’ dig his eyeballs out with miniature  ice cream scoops, really.

The problem with Starbucks, more or less, isn’t the chain itself as it is the people that frequent the eatery (or would “drinkery” be a better fitting term?) To put it briefly, Starbucks is like a nesting ground for every permutation of slacker, asshole and social misfit out there. It’s a place where every shade of unproductive human being goes to squander an afternoon, while the dulcimer tones of “She & Him” -- aka, the sound of the universe eating its own shit -- plays on an endless loop.

As a college student in desperate need of both free Wi-Fi and caffeine at every waking hour, I’ve probably been to about one hundred different Starbucks chains across these United States over the last half a decade, and over time, I realized something peculiar about the populaces you meet at said franchises: no matter where you go, and no matter when, you end up encountering the same nine stereotypes EVERY freaking time you spend an afternoon at Starbucks.

Granted, they may not all be at your local ‘Bucks at the exact same time, but I assure you, if you camped out over a day, you would SURELY encounter the nine types of people listed below, whether you live in Brooklyn, Omaha, or Walla Walla…

The Nu-Wave Christian Meet-Up People

This one, I suppose makes sense. I mean, if you’re a hardcore Christian evangelical type, I guess there really aren’t that many social gathering places that are conducive for proselytizing. Since dens of inequity like Hooters are completely off the menu altogether -- and since Chick-Fil-A’s coffee selection is rather limited -- I reckon one’s options for bible study get-together locales are expectedly narrow.

You never see just one, of course. Usually, they’re all huddled together in a corner somewhere, usually with a study bible in the center of their completely innocent circle jerk. Most of the times, they’re wearing tee shirts and shorts (maybe jeans and a North Face jacket if it’s winter) and good lord, are they likely to be the absolute whitest people you’ve ever met. Seriously, they’ll sound like they waltzed out an episode of “Silver Spoons” or “Step By Step” or something. Granted, there may be one token member with a tan in their entourage, but as a whole, don’t expect much variation in pigment amongst ye olde faithful.

Thankfully, they tend to keep to themselves. They will talk about god and Jesus and all of that stuff -- volubly -- and they might even hold a mini prayer vigil while they are there, but they probably won’t approach you, unsolicited, and start talking your ear off about Deuteronomy and stuff. The physical features of the females tend to fluctuate (some are your standard, almost hittable blondes of normal size and structure while some look like 19-year-old versions of  Zelda Rubinstein) but assuredly, all the guys in the posse will resemble, in some shape or manner, Justin Bieber. Always.

The 40-Year-Old Community College Student

Usually a female, but sometimes a male. But yeah, usually a female, and often, with a very boy-ish haircut. Feel free to draw your own conclusions from here…you homophobe.

You can distinguish these denizens from others at the local Starbucks by a few physical characteristics. First, they will have a laptop with them, but it will NEVER be a Mac. Secondly, they will always have a couple of textbooks (with highly visible USED stickers plastered on the spines), sprawled out upon one of those modern art IKEA table tops in the “lounge area.” That said, for whatever reason, they will never actually LOOK at the seemingly randomly selected page in front of them. In fact, despite the fact that they tend to have numerous academic texts and a couple of notebooks and pens and maybe even a graphing calculator scattered all around them like a protective barrier, they will never, EVER appear to be doing anything that resembles “studying” in the classical, Continental sense.

They always have an MP3 player with them, with at least one ear bud wedged into one of their canals. Whether or not there is actually music coming OUT of those speakers, however, is yet to be determined. If you catch a glance at their laptop screens, it always looks like they are doing something or another with Excel, or some other database-like program. Except every five minutes, they feel the need to wave their hands and say “hi” at some one that enters the establishment. If these kinds of patrons are on site for an hour, they will no doubt spend about 45 minutes just chit-chatting it up with whoever is in the vicinity. If you make eye contact, THEY WILL instigate conversation, so do your best to not stare (unless, of course, you really want some discourse on how hard English 1101 is.)

The Incredibly Gross DeviantART Make-out Couple

You’ll always find two kids -- probably in their early 20s, but with acne-ravaged visages so cratered and pockmarked by puberty’s cruelty that they actually look more like they are in their early 40s instead -- hanging out on one of those faux leather chairs -- usually, positioned in the absolute darkest corner of the building. They will spend their time at Starbucks sipping on lattes, showing each other pictures on their smart phones and playing decisively nasty-ass looking games of tonsil rugby -- resulting in a horrific goulash of androgyny, gothic make-up and cigarette smoke odors -- for God and everybody else to witness.

The male variety will look sort of like Marilyn Manson, except skinnier, hairier, and dorkier. The tee-shirt has to be black, the pants have to be black, and he’s probably rocking some pewter jewelry of some kind. Imagine a cross between Danzig and Napoleon Dynamite, and you pretty much have the male of the species starring you in the face.

The female, however, fluctuates in appearance. Sometimes, she’ll be anorexic thin, and sometimes, she’ll be roughly the same size as a small manatee. She’ll either be wearing more make-up than Gene Simmons, or displaying a slightly fuzzy and dimpled moon face that’s paler than mayonnaise. She’ll ALWAYS sound like a valley girl, no matter which region of the country you are in, too. From their morose outward appearances, you’d expect their chatter to be somewhat intellectual, but…no, they mostly talk about what they watch on Netflix, how awesome the last show by some shitty band no one’s ever heard of/cares about were and then resume playing ookie mouth. And despite their high school-esque, nihilistic banality? They’re probably eighth year grad students somewhere.

The Completely Unfazed Laptop Dude Suspiciously Well-Dressed To Just Be Sitting Around Drinking Coffee By Himself

For starters, this dude is usually a couple of years older than everybody else in the building. Frequently, by a few decades, too. He never really says anything, to anyone. I think he makes his order by pointing at the menu item and simply nodding, I guess. Whereas the younger folks in the building have their backpacks and Apple laptops, this guy sits himself down at a desk, solemnly sips coffee (in an actual ceramic mug as opposed to one of those cardboard cylinders or plastic cups everybody else is using) and delicately types away at his Dell computer, stopping periodically only to check his Blackberry or procure a document of some sort from his briefcase.

While everybody else at the ‘Bucks is rocking Keds and blue jeans, he’ll be wearing a three piece suit (it’s either jet black or yellowish-brown…there are no in between colors for a man of his stature.) He’ll do this thing where he stops every three minutes or so, looks up, emits something that sort of sounds like a sigh and then collapse back into his computer work. Whether or not he’s dwelling upon the existential uncertainties of middle age for a respite or simply letting out an SBD fart, we’ll perhaps never know.

You may think the guy is there for a job interview. That happens a lot at Starbucks, you know. But the dude never meets up with anyone. In fact, he doesn’t seem to leave the building, at all, ever. He will NEVER leave the place before you do, and if you make eye contact with him, he won’t as much as return your stare. With such an intense focus on his Internetting, you’d surmise the dude to be a day trader, or some big-time IT fella’ for a major solutions firm. That is, until you waltz by and see the game of “Minecraft” minimized on his taskbar…

The Jovial Police Officer

Some cops are scary looking. Others are really, really fat and about as intimidating as a hairless kitten. If you see a cop at Starbucks, there really shouldn’t be a surprise as to what kind of police officer you’re likeliest to encounter.

The policemen that frequent Starbucks remind me a lot of the old school resource officers everybody had back in high school. I mean, yeah, he had a gun and a badge and all that other stuff, but he just acted so damn goofy -- kidding around and cutting up and acting suspiciously friendly to everyone -- that you saw him less as a man of the law and more of remedial, possibly Special Ed student that was way bigger than all the other kids.

Well, that SRO apparently switched positions, and now he’s a dude that’s ALWAYS at Starbucks, laughing it up at the counter with the teenaged barista that’s more than a little creeped out by the chrome-dome, hot-dog necked social servant awkwardly flirting with her. And for whatever reason, Starbucks cops always seem to be the kind of officers that have motorcycles; I guess that means all the “Rampart” po-po probably are chilling out at the Dunkin’ Donuts instead, enjoying munchkins and racial profiling and making each other smoke PCP like in “Training Day,” I suppose.


The “PG-Rated” Biker

And just when you think things can’t get any more “Village People" up in here, in comes the family-friendly motorcyclist. He’s kinda’ like Lorenzo Lamas in “Renegade,” if the only thing “Renegade” was a renegade about was his mortgage and home schooling his kids that he’s unaware utterly hate his guts.

Most of the time -- but not 100 percent of the time -- the PG-rated biker is a middle-aged, largely overweight, typically bald man, who may or may not have some religious-bumper stickers taped all over his helmet like a Jehovah’s Witness’ Trapper Keeper. He’s pretty amiable -- perhaps not as amicable as the jovial cop, but still pretty chat-happy -- and if you’re within ten feet of him, he WILL attempt to engage in discourse with you.

So, typically, when you encounter a biker, you expect a pretty coarse conversation -- lots of swearing, a couple of threats, and some ominous grunting. Well, the PG-rated biker, as the name suggests, does none of the sort, instead displaying a polite, perhaps overtly-approachable demeanor that seems to run contra to the whole “owning a crotch-rocket” persona. So yeah, it’s a pretty safe bet: these dudes almost assuredly own homes with illegal sex dungeons in them.

The Wi-Fi Scammers Out Back

Easily identifiable by their liberal usage of the terms “dude,” and “fuck yeah,” the wi-fi scammers out back (an entirely different breed from the wi-fi scammers inside the building or in front of it) come in two primary varieties: one that’s mostly benevolent, and one that surely isn’t.

First, the annoying - but non-malicious -- scammers. Generally, they are young, college-aged guys, typically wearing a baseball cap (pick a random SEC college team or MLB franchise) and a band tee-shirt. As a general rule of thumb, if you want to know whether or not a musical act sucks, if you see a band celebrated on the apparel of one of these kids, they almost assuredly do. More or less, they're just at Starbucks for the free Internet connection -- they hardly, if ever, actually purchase anything at their visits, and they make no efforts to approach others and engage in discourse. Rarely do you see just one of these varieties of wi-fi scammer at a time; almost always a duo, you will periodically see a small posse of cheap ass nerds huddled around a table, smoking cigarettes (who cares if there’s a new company policy forbidding it, they’re REBELS, after all!), talking about how much class “sucks” and how great “Call of Duty” is. Despite their borderline obsessive need for wireless Internet at all times, they never seem to do anything that appears to be worthwhile, like homework or job scouting while they are at the ‘Bucks. Well, unless you count trolling people on Reddit or trying to buy hookers on Craigslist to be productive, of course.

The second form of scammer is the kind that’s actually kinda’ dangerous -- the folks that log on to the communal wi-fi network and try to steal the shit out of everybody’s information that’s also using said network. An inversion of the non-malicious scammers, you will NEVER see individuals of the like hanging out in groups. Lone wolves of the like, you know, gotta’ do all their shadiness alone. Generally, they are there to hack into people’s accounts and retrieve sensitive info, like social security numbers or (most likely) some poor sap’s credit card details while he purchases Pac-Man shaped things on Fab. A good way to root out potential phishers is to open up a Word document and type, in 72-size, blindingly red bold font, “STOP LOOKING AT MY COMPUTER, BITCH.” Anybody at their laptop that kinda’ shudders a second afterward is probably hacking the network. And legally, you have every right to approach them soon after, and give them “the business.” Well, probably, anyway.

The Smelly Dude Listening to Kelly Clarkson

It’s an oddly specific thing to point out, but if you hang out at the local ‘Bucks long enough, you will assuredly encounter a figure of the like. Granted, he may not always be listening to Kelly Clarkson…sometimes, he may prefer Beyonce or Christina Aguilera…but these factors, they remain constant: he’s listening to female-vocal pop music (loudly) and he will stink (even more loudly.)

And it’s a special kind of stink, too -- a combination of wet garbage, underarm B.O. and a scent that can only be described as “posterior detritus.” At his laptop, he’ll be banging on the keys like he was playing “Typing of the Dead,” but if you ever catch a glimpse at his screen, he’s more than likely just starring at a blank Google search screen while air drumming “Since U Been Gone.” You know, because if there’s one thing this guy needs to do, it’s build up more sweat around his pivot joints and…shudder…unseen crevices.

The major positive here is that the character is highly unlikely to engage in conversation with you. This is because doing so would take him out of the “Kelly Clarkson zone,” and let’s face it, any time he’s not in that, he’s probably a million times likelier to shoot up the place. Oh, and that rusted-ass 1987 Toyota Camry with the “Info Wars” bumper sticker on it in the parking lot? Come on, you don’t need me to tell you that shit has to be his.

The Absolute Fattest Person You’ve Ever Seen in Your Life 

It’s not so much the fact that you encounter a person of such unfathomable girth at the eatery as it is the fact that you somehow manage to witness someone with even MORE unfathomable girth the next time you walk into a Starbucks. This, I assure you, is no meager observation: each time, you will SWEAR that said individual is about as obese as a human can be while still having the faculties to walk, and then, the next time you grab a latte? Holy shit, there’s a guy there that’s got the person that has to be the fattest person you’ve ever seen beat by a good ten or fifteen pounds. It happens EVERY single visit, people.

The funny thing is, this isn’t a repeat customer, either -- we’re just dealing with a steady influx of impossibly overweight peoples, who for reasons yet to be identified by science, really like themselves some Starbucks. Questions, obviously, are abound here; why does the eatery attract so many human/walrus hybrids, despite the fact that the chain itself serves an infinitesimal amount of solid foodstuffs?

Well, not to get you kids to concerned, but as it turns out, some of the items at Starbucks contain an absolutely horrifying amount of calories.Of special note is the chain’s peppermint white hot chocolate, a seasonal offering that contains more caloric impact than either a 40 ounce serving of Mountain Dew or three cheese roll-ups from Taco Bell pureed into a fine pulp. So, with that in mind, maybe it’s not all that surprising that Starbucks is such a haven for Jenny Craig cast-offs and Weight Watchers dropouts, after all…

UPDATE: Oh, and one last thing, for potential international readers: if you’re ever in Hong Kong, you might want to reconsider frequenting any Starbucks chains in the vicinity. Trust, me, you just ought to…

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