Before the pandemic hit, I would walk to the Red Arrow Starbucks down the hill from my office at least once a day. I’ve only been there a handful of times since.
For a long time after my college moved all instruction into a virtual environment last March, I worked from home. This was hard, given that we had four adults (my husband, myself, and our two daughters) all trying to live and work out of a medium-sized bungalow.
So at some point in winter I began driving downtown several times a week, especially on long teaching days. But even though I was on campus again doing virtual classes out of my office, I rarely went to Starbucks. I just couldn’t spare the time. Dealing with all the apparatus of online learning management platforms is extremely time consuming. Maybe teaching completely asynchronously online wouldn’t be as much work on its own, but having to do everything associated with asynchronous instruction—putting all course materials into Canvas and Box (our learning management system and online file repository) as well as MS Teams (similar to Zoom, but with file-sharing and storage capabilities)—but then also showing up and being “on” for real-time class meetings in Teams has been exhausting. I can’t be sure of how students are experiencing all this, but I think they are exhausted, too.
My university is supposed to be back to in-person instruction come fall, and I cannot wait. It will be wonderful to be in a room with students who are actual people, not just images on a screen. Plus, it will be such a relief to free up my teaching from the restrictions (and time sinks) of online platforms.
Which brings me in a roundabout way back to Starbucks. Yesterday afternoon I found myself in the interesting position of having 2½ hours of unscheduled time between an advising session and my 4:00 class.
Enough time for a coffee run 🙂
I walked down the hill, and when I arrived at Starbucks, the first people I saw were Amy, the manager, and Alyssa, a barista who is usually there in the afternoons. I was so happy to see them, and vice versa.
“Hey Miss Katie!” called Amy, greeting me in her usual way with arms thrown upward like a referee signaling a touchdown. I felt like Norm in that old TV show “Cheers,” who each time he walked into the bar was welcomed by all the other patrons calling out “Norm!”
While we all talked, I tried to think about how to order my coffee. What size do I usually get? What is it called? Oh, yeah: “venti.” I decided to splurge with a “misto,” aka the Starbucks version of café au lait, except I actually went with “breve,” meaning with steamed half and half instead of milk. Yes, very rich!
Amy took my order, slid my Starbucks card to process the payment, and the two of us continued talking. (The store was empty for the first part of my visit, although everyone behind the counter was busy filling mobile orders.) As Alyssa took up the little sticker from the order printout and pasted it onto my cup, she glanced over at Amy and said with a laugh, “I see you got her whole name on there.”
I assumed she meant “Katherine,” my full name, which is the one on my Starbucks card and the one that gets pasted onto my cup whenever I order at a Starbucks where they don’t know me. Usually my cups at the Red Arrow Starbucks don’t have labels. When I order coffee in the mornings, Christine just writes “Katie” on my cup by hand, possibly to bypass the many mobile orders that are coming through at the same time and printing up lots of labels. (Often she adds a heart, which makes me extra happy every time I take a sip 🙂 ) So yesterday I figured that because a label got printed this time, it had probably lifted my whole name when Amy scanned my card.
I forgot all about Alyssa’s remark after I got my coffee and walked back to my office. But later, while working on my computer to prep for my 4:00 film studies class, I happened to notice the label as I picked up my cup. And laughed!
As the song at the beginning of the old “Cheers” TV show puts it:
Sometimes you wanna go
Where everybody knows your name
And they’re always glad you came . . .
You wanna go where people know
People are all the same
You wanna go where everybody knows your name
That’s something the pandemic has taken from us. And I, for one, want it back.