Gasoline is expensive.
When the car rolls out for the day, it’s not coming back home until all of us have to go home, which usually means I have to wait until Mum clocks out of work at 10-ish. Work starts at 8:30am sharp, sometimes earlier, so regardless if my class begins at 9AM or 3PM, sleeping in is never an option, because gasoline is expensive. If I’m lucky, I can catch a few more minutes of sleep in the car, crunched up in an awkward position–head lolling to one side, feet resting on the center console–dreaming about the day when convenient public transport, or else cheap, sustainable biofuel make it so I become the master of my own time.
We (my driver and I) drop her off at work, and unless she has an errand for me to run, I go to school. To wait, because due to this fuel efficiency arrangement, I’ve become ridiculously good at waiting for my days to begin (and end, really, because I have to wait for Mum to pick me up too). Only sometimes, I’m not. Sometimes, it’s too early in the morning for me to be able to like people yet. I’m considered a relatively nice person, but before ten AM my inner misanthrope is in full force and the sight of a giggling gaggle of gimmick-ready freshmen (Nothing personal; they say you know you’re a true upperclassman when you start mindlessly hating freshmen, usually when it’s very early in the morning.) can trigger a nervous twitch that feels suspiciously like a bomb timer counting down the seconds before I blow.
Since I don’t relish the thought of starting the day with a psychotic episode–the poor freshmen have enough problems without a crazy upperclassman biting their heads off–I retreat to a place where I can defuse in peace.
Starbucks Pearl Drive.
Also known as “my office,” ‘Starbs,’ as I and the majority of my coffee-loving barkada have dubbed it in (acceptable) text-speak, is a personal institution. My home-away-from-home (the “third place,” as they call it) since I was a giggling, gimmick-ready freshman myself, it hasn’t changed much in the nearly five years I’ve spent in university. The staff and the menu have rotated a bit, seasonal drinks have come and gone, but for the large part it’s remained the same Starbucks Pearl I took perm-headed, heavily eyeliner-ed selfies in as an emo first year.
Exhibit A. My face hasn’t changed much either, unless you count the eyebags.
The best part about Starbucks Pearl is that, even if you’re alone–as I’m wont to be because, like I said, in the morning I tend to want to kill people–you don’t feel like an antisocial, agoraphobic loner. Waiting at Starbucks makes you feel less like a bum on a student budget (which, to be honest, I am; sometimes I don’t even buy anything) and more like you’re a subject of an Edward Hopper painting: Student, Waiting For Life to Start, or, more accurately Student, Waiting For All The Noisy Freshmen To Clear Out So She Won’t Give In To Her Homicidal Urges.
(I really should stop ragging on the freshmen, except I can’t help it–it’s the first day of school and suddenly they’re EVERYWHERE. Like a zombie horde: “Beware the Freshman Apocalypse.” Oh well, as my upperclassmen are kind enough to remind me, I was once upon a time (*shudder*) just like them.)
Best of all, when you’re getting the shakes from that double espresso-shot non-fat hazelnut vanilla latté (Venti if you’re suicidal), the day suddenly feels…better. Like you didn’t just drop all your lunch money on an expensive coffee-flavored milkshake.
(What can I say? Gasoline is expensive. Even the kind for humans.)
I don’t drink Starbucks coffee as often I as used to. Along the way I discovered that the teas worked just as well, only without giving me the shakes, and without burning as big a hole in my wallet. The food’s pretty good too, when they have the stuff I like eating–I have this annoying habit of falling in love with one of the items only to have it get pulled out, like, three weeks later–and usually, even at the peak of rush hour, it’s relatively quiet, the sounds of talking blurring into a white noise that can be easily tuned out. They don’t even mind if I make noise once in a while. Heck, I’ve played guitar here. Badly. And didn’t get kicked out. How many coffeeshops in the world will let you do that?
After close to five years of coming here and waiting, I’ve sort of become part of the ecosystem. A regular. Predictable down to the drink I’ll order; if a barista still has to ask, I give them a little smile that says, “Oh, you’re new here, aren’t you?” at which point one of the senior ones will quickly jump in and introduce me. Most of them know me better than the majority of my Facebook friends, know that I went to Brazil on internship, when I started playing guitar, that I auditioned for Miss Saigon last year and didn’t make it–little tidbits of my life they’ve made a point of finding out. And while I know it’s nothing more than a genius CRM strategy, it works–I come back.
And more-than-occasionally do buy something.
It’s 10:50AM now. I’ve been sitting in Starbucks for nearly an hour and a half, and have only just made up my mind on what to order. No one at the counter’s shot me a dirty look, and when Renz, one of the baristas, passed by to pick up some empty trays left on the table in front of me, he even gave me a little wave. They know, after five years of my coming here, bleary-eyed and with a scowl that could curdle milk, to give me a little time.
I’m here for the long haul, anyway, as always.