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The Starbucks On Melrose, Yesterday: A Short Story

The Starbucks On Melrose, Yesterday

It’s no longer a Coffee Bean anymore: it’s a painted over window that an old man now scrapes, removing light orange graffiti that someone must have christened the building with the night before. I had just biked from La Cienega over to this Coffee Bean, this quiet, easy, relaxed, small, usually empty Coffee Bean on Melrose and Gardner, to do some work. But, it’s closed, apparently gone under from being unpopular, making way for some stupid clothing store or, better yet, a much needed market for the area. It probably closed because of the Starbucks a few blocks away, across from the Urban Outfitters, the one with the nice patio but terrible inside, the one that I hate going to because they don’t know what English Breakfast tea is, the one that is a pool of people working on annoying each other, everyone staring at each other instead of their own computer screens.

“Guess I’ll go to Starbucks,” I tell myself, turning my bike around and heading West on Melrose.

There isn’t much of a line in the Starbucks, thankfully, but there is a little sign in the open refrigerator where the prepared food should be: “We have all of our sandwiches: just ask!” A little smiley face is underneath the words, smiling at all of the high school kids and vagrants who have snatched up sandwiches and “Bistro Boxes” without paying. I’ve seen it happen before here, which is why I know the smiley face is so smug, a middle finger next to it, drawn in invisible ink. I grab a raspberry smoothie drink, wishing it were a Naked Green Machine™–but it isn’t: this is a Starbucks. Not a Coffee Bean.

“Hi. Just this and a small English Breakfast.”

I slide the berry drink over.

“Sure, Tall English Breakfast. Would you like anything else?”

“Honey would be great, please.”

“How many packets?”

“Two. Just two.”

She slides over two honey packets, both of which are sticky. She turns around to grab the tea, noticing there isn’t any left. I watch her search around, looking in cabinets and reading tea labels. I notice she pulls out some packets from a container reading “Earl Grey Tea” and remember that Starbucks employees only understand teas in their own stupid Tazo Tea code words, their Passion Herbal and Rest Well and Lotus and Awake, all of which are titles for real teas that you cannot read from behind a counter. I get my tea knowing it is Earl Grey, a tea that tastes like perfume and does not mix well with cream and honey, like I was hoping to do. I don’t say anything because I already know I am going to have a bad experience at this Starbucks: why not succumb to it sooner rather than later?

I find a little table, in the center of all of the “working” people. I stare outside, wishing it wasn’t so cold so I could sit out there. No one is out there save for a table with a man who over gesticulates and two girls who keep fawning over him. A guy sits across from me, staring, as I pull out my computer to write about Terry Richardson and some dumb show he has up that people will make it a point to see despite it being absolutely stupid. I catch the guy’s gaze and realize that I know him as “that server from BLD,” the one who vaguely has hit on me before at a brunch with my boyfriend who I always eat there with, usually two Saturdays a month. He just stares, sitting with a cup, obviously on a day off and waiting for someone. I get to work, writing about how Richardson made the top of a girl’s head look like a vagina. The line to order keeps expanding and shrinking every twenty minutes or so. There is a constant crowd around the bathroom. What appears to be a J-Pop band exits the establishment, drinks in hands, all wearing various animal prints.

The BLD server gets up and leaves as a man and woman walk up. The woman has a tiny Yorkie that she sets at a chair next to her, me thinking to myself, “That’s not allowed,” mouthing in her direction as if she will hear me. The woman has red hair and a large coffee drink. She’s wearing all black, her top being a bedazzled sweater and her bottom being some sort of tight black yoga pants that did not go past her ankles. The man she was with looked kind of like a biker who just got off of working his job as a front desk attendant at a Gold’s Gym: he had black parachute pants on, a large belt, a black sleeveless t-shirt with a design on it, a black bandana around his head, and a mid-back jet black pony tail. He was also very big. He sipped a very, very large cream colored drink in one of those clear domed cups, eyeing everyone through his reflective aviators. He slowly typed on a Dell laptop. The two of them eclipsed the tiny bearded man with a bucket hat and a bag from The Children’s Store who was sitting at the table next to them.

I go to take out the Earl Grey teabag, which oversteeped. In keeping with Starbucks teabags, the string disattaches from the teabag, plopping the it into the lukewarm water, splashing cloudy tea around the table. I fish it out, stir, and take a sip: tastes like perfume. I set it down and don’t touch it again. A large chatter swells up behind me, as three large Russian men furiously play a card game that involves lots of yelling, slamming their hands onto tables, and shaking the back of my chair. This goes on for at least two hours.

I watch the fake body builder get up a few times to go join the bathroom entourage, each time removing his glasses, walking with his cream drink, and returning to hunch over his tiny computer. He puts his phone up to his left ear, revealing that it is an original iPhone, the bottom black bar of the phone’s back giving it away. He booms something into the phone and promptly moves with his lady friend and the Yorkie to the bar behind me. A man and a woman speaking German approach and sit to my right and an anxious woman speaking French on her phone sits to my left. As I try to transcribe an interview, it becomes apparent that I am in the middle of the Melrose Starbucks United Nations meeting, nestled in a triangle of card playing Russian men, happily conversing Germans, and a near tears Frenchwoman. I hunker down and continue to transcribe, trying to concentrate and not stare at the J-Pop band, who have returned to buy scones.

I have a good, long spree of work, getting most of my transcribing done. I decide to open the berry drink, a thick lukewarm fruit medley that I cannot cleanse my palette from unless I want to use the perfume water. The sun starts to set and you can tell there is a chill outside as people start to walk faster and are dressed warmer. The table of the girls with the gesticulating man get up and hug, prepping to leave. Around the same time, the Frenchwoman exits, leaving the table to my left vacant. I push my earbuds further into in order to hear what an interviewee is saying. I am all of a sudden distracted by a shoe hideosity in the form of a light brown leather boot, which has a ridiculous chain on the back. I chuckle to myself, “What a mess.” and continue writing.

I catch a line from the chained-booted man, a line that was dipped in Pepto-Bismol pink and inflected with a raspy Valley Girl affect.

“Copper and black twinsies!”

I cringe, sad for my own people, Harvey Milk rolling in his grave, a rainbow flag being hoisted to half-mast. I notice this person is the gesticulating man from outside as he explains that he anD the girl with him match, both of them wearing copper and black.

“I love smoking out here! I can even smoke on patios at most places. Not here, though.”

The two laugh, clarifying that they are talking about marijuana smoking, not just cigarette smoking.

“I just love smoking. I have a smoke stick–but I don’t do any other drugs.”

As I contemplate what a “smoke stick” is, I message a friend: “You would not believe these people sitting next to me. They are THE WORST.COM.”

“If I get a medical marijuana card, it’ll be on my record. I am, like, that’d be cool to have–but I don’t want it on my record. I know, like, everyone has it. I used to be really paranoid about it like I don’t want anyone to know that I do it.”

He and his girl friend laugh. I stare at my shoes trying to work, stopping to chuckle at my feet, desperate not to blow my cover. I transcribe everything they are saying to my friend over instant messenger. I see a hand reach out.

“I love your hair shorter: it’s cute! Are you getting so much clothes for free?”

An ear perks up: “Free clothes? How? Why? Are they thieves?”

“You see all these bloggers writing about such junk. People send me so much stuff, too. Like, one time, someone sent me a TV because they just had my address. It’s a big screen TV. Like, this big.”

He puts his hands out in the air, the length of what could be my own body, an absurdist size for a television: it is apparent that they are bloggers that give bloggers a bad name.

“I love the proximity from here to Vegas.”

He cackles a laugh, recalling a previous trip. The girl speaks up. He responds.

“Oh, you hate it? Oh. Well, I’ve only been once. I stayed at the Cosmopolitan, which is super chic.”

He goes on and on, detailing he was there for an event and went for free by himself.

“Are you media? Are you considered media? Like, think through fashion?”

As he says this, the two start discussing their Twitter names and how no one can figure hers out because it is “Sydney spelled S Y D N E” and that “think through fashion” is actually “ThinkThruFashion.” They talk about trying to be cast on shows, to which my friend on instant messenger says, “I work in casting at MTV and these two would never get cast.” I think to tell them this, to assist their career pursuits, but am enjoying how they are ruining my attempt at work.

This character finishes his Twitter story, returning to Vegas–AKA, back to him.

“Virgin gave me a free flight. I just had to Tweet once in flight and that was it.”

My heart pains, the sound of cash registers ringing in my ears: why do such terrible people get rewarded for being terrible?

“Figure out what works for you–not the Style Network. D-D-D-Do it, gurrrl! This Starbucks is so fancy.”

I shake my head, trying to work yet again, but am reminded that I am in a Starbucks sitting next to a man with chains on his boots. He’s now talking about some restaurant.

“I went with my friend April Tombs from ICM and there were stars everywhere. It was epic. I was shaking in my boots I was so excited!”

A name dropping list occurs, including Jared Leto and Rachel Zoe. The sound of shaking chained boots is heard.

“You know, it’s funny when it’s cold out because I want a cold drink. And, when it’s hot, I want a hot drink.”

He says this to the third person in their party, who arrives with a large Louis Vuitton bag in hand, fresh from the drink line.

“OMG: I make my drinks as skinny as possible!! TWINSIES!!”

I try to hold in laughs, embarrassed for this person. I think to pack up and leave. But, I am somehow entranced by this live tragedy.

“My mom is talking like me now. I told my mom Gaga showed up to the Chateau and she said, ‘Wowsies.’ I called her and she even said ‘Hi-sies.’ I was like, ‘Mom.'”

For a second I wish I was a New Yorker, away from this and bitter in the cold, away from–

“Sometimes when I travel, I say I am going to be at this bar and at this time and then people can come meet each other and NeTwOrKKkKkK.”

They talk about how this person needs to catch his flight back to New York, thus ending my very brief New York fantasy. I begin to clap, only catching myself seconds before my hands make contact with each other.

“It’s not real is it?” he says to the Louis Vuitton bagged friend about her nose ring or something, “Oh, I knew it wasn’t real. That’s right. I tried it on. Love it. Love it.”

The gaggle of ghastly head out in a single file line, out the door, back to Melrose. The J-Pop band walks in as they exit and head toward the bathroom area. I collect myself and try to work. A minute later, two college girls sit down, snapping and chatting loudly. One opens up her Toshiba laptop, to reveal a photo of herself with sunglasses on in a sexy pose as the desktop to her computer.

I finish my transcription, pack up my belongings, and head to my bike: I have had enough silliness for one afternoon at a Starbucks. Next time, I’ll go work at Palihotel.

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