The Fountain of Starbucks

100_8684Recently, I experienced a situation that will live in Island Family infamy. On the tail end of a road trip, I stopped for a late night cup of coffee to keep me awake while I drove. I’d been holding out for a coffee shop, but when it got past ten and I still had quite a bit of driving to do, I stopped at the first fast food restaurant that looked open.

When I ordered inside, the cashier, in full-on monotone, told me my coffee would be thirty-three cents.

I stared at her for a minute and asked her to repeat herself, thinking I’d misheard. She said the same number again.

I gave her a quizzical look, and when she stared blankly back at me, I questioned it.

“Oh, so coffee is only thirty-three cents now?”

Well, not exactly, as it turns out.

“Senior coffee’s thirty-three cents,” she answered.

Honestly, I thought I’d misheard what she said yet again.

After another repeat, I realized I had inadvertently stumbled into a special, unpublished circle of Dante’s hell set aside just for me. See, I was the only customer offered – no, given – the senior coffee, despite the two clearly more qualified customers standing nearby.

Y’all, I’m not even in the right decade (or even close to the right decade) to qualify for the senior discount, and she didn’t even ask first.

She assumed I qualified.

(This story merits widespread use of italics.)

I kid you not, that vacuous sixteen-year-old stared at me, all doe-eyed and taut-skinned and my-life-has-hardly-begun-ish, and assumed that someone looking like me must be in the winter of her life.

I was equal parts flabbergasted and flummoxed.

Then, being stupid and all, I corrected her. I feel it’s important to note here that not only was there was no apology or acknowledgement offered, but she also looked at me much like I look at my students when I suspect they’re lying to me. She said nothing, but punched something in her register, and then asked for over three times as much for the very same cup of coffee that was now merely a coffee for the middle-aged. But at least I took a stand for my age.

This comforting thought brings me none.

To add insult to injury, I had to get back in my minivan and share my story with LCB, who was working intently on his computer. After all, it was sort of hilarious. He stopped what he was doing, asked a couple questions of clarification, and howled.

“Oh, you have to write about this,” he gasped between spasms of laughter that shook the van.

“I don’t particularly want to,” I retorted, no longer laughing.

“Oh, but you have to,” he said, and reminded me of my Living with a Senior Citizen post I was once so quick to share with the universe.

Later, I started thinking about something. I have no beef against the world of fast food, and indeed my experiences with customer service in those establishments have been mostly positive. And the truth is, I know some of you have the same deep-seated wounds from being falsely labeled a “senior.” (Please feel free to refrain from contacting me if you haven’t. I have no interest in hearing from people who are regularly confused with their daughters.)

But I realized that this has never, ever happened to me at Starbucks. Those people know how to do it. I walk in, and there are no age assumptions, no vacuousness, not a hint of impassivity. They are clear on their mission: to wake me up via caffeine and supernatural levels of employee perkiness, and to make me walk out feeling slightly better about my life than when I walked in. Really, I never thought about it before, but my baristas make me feel like I could totally be in the spring of my life. Like I could be a doe-eyed, taut-skinned, my-life-has-hardly-begun-ish cashier at a fast food establishment, for instance. Like, if they were serving me merlot instead of a caffe americano, I’d totally be carded.

It occurs to me now that I love them.

So, I’ve decided to represent them, to do everything I can to support a company that has never, ever made me feel significantly older than I am.

In 2000, Subway picked up Jared. In 2015, Starbucks is picking up An Island Mom.

Now, I just need to let them know what they’ve done.

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Words from Martin Luther King Jr. on Education

100_4205The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education.

Martin Luther King Jr.

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A Carolina Island Life: How It Came To Pass, Part XIII

IMG_7299If you are new to this tale, you may want to start here: Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV, Part V, Part VI, Part VII, Part VIII, Part IX, Part X, Part XI, and Part XII.

The next four months were interesting. We took several trips to what would be our new island, to look for houses. Those in real estate often say location trumps all other home features; it’s the one thing you can’t change. In our case, we had to decide in particular where on the island we wanted to be (near the beach, near the salt marsh, mid-island, near the bridge for easy mainland access, etc.).

We toured many homes on our island during that time period, so I can tell you one thing with certainty: There are a lot of homes on my sweet island that I could have lived in, homes I could have built a life in, homes I could have loved for one reason or another. I’ve driven by many of them, time and again, and wondered enough about the what-ifs to craft a book on each. Maybe one day I will.

But they all, in one way or another, would have offered a life we would love to have lived, if only we had several to exhaust. Like everyone else, however, we just have the one, so there were choices to be made.

Finally in the spring we settled on one side of a duplex right by the ocean. I had seen and been smitten by the other half of the duplex in December of the previous year, right after we’d discovered the island, but had balked at the price and the idea of a duplex that would potentially be “shared” with tourists much of the year. So, we hadn’t considered making an offer. When we saw the other half that next spring, however, after having weighed all our options, we decided to make an offer. Ultimately, our offer was accepted, and we waited for the steps leading up to the closing to be completed. The house was in the vacation rental market, and I still remember the gist of what a child wrote in the guest book left lying on the coffee table. She’d had the best week of her life there, and wished she could live there at the beach. While LCB and the realtor talked numbers, I imagined the girl, and I imagined the lives my boys would live here, growing up by the beach. As we navigated each step toward closing successfully, the new life began to seem increasingly real.

The day before closing, however, we were out running some pre-closing errands when LCB received a phone call. It was not good. In the world of beach property, different “zoning” drastically affects insurance rates and therefore home values. Mere hours before closing, we were told that, due to a mistake from years ago that had just been uncovered, the home didn’t have the preferred zoning we had been told it had. LCB relayed the news to me at the end of the call, and we drove in strange bursts of talking followed by periods of silence. We had thought this one was in the bag, but we also believe that things happen for a purpose. Oh, and we hate overpaying for stuff. So, after great deliberation, we made the call to let the home go.

At the time, we were scheduled to go back to the Midwest for a brief business stint. All our things were in storage, and we were leaving our beach rental, so suddenly we were in a holding pattern. This didn’t last long, however. We had seen a newer single family home earlier that year, one I had told LCB to forget because I wasn’t really one much for new homes. LCB wasn’t either, but two or three days after we’d arrived back in the Midwest, he came to me and said the words.

“I think we should put an offer on that house.”

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