To the Old Man Working at Starbucks

You sort of stand out. Most Starbucks employees are pink-haired, nose-ringed youngsters happy to have a first job that isn’t sitting behind a desk. I can say this because my daughter used to work as a shift-manager at a Starbucks right out of college. She was not pink-haired and nose-ringed, but she was young and happy to have a job that wasn’t behind a desk. She loved that job, although a marriage and three daughters later, she has moved on to—you guessed it—a job behind a desk.

But you, sir, you’re tall and grey-haired with glasses. You’re very distinguished looking. You have on the green apron and the headset. I’m at the cash register getting my chai and watching you heat up my blueberry scone. You’re staring into the microwave window as the scone circles. There’s a lag in the activity, a rare quiet moment for you in the day of busy baristas. You’re looking in that window, but you’re not seeing anything.

Image courtesy of Annie’s Eats, Flickr

Why are you here amongst these young bouncy extroverts? Do you have this job because you have to or because you want to?

Is this a job to get you out of the house because a beloved wife passed away and being alone at home all day is just too much?

Is this a job to give you some money because social security just isn’t enough to live on?

Did you get hammered in the stock market? Did your mortgage get under water? Is the economy taking such a hit on you that you have to be here taking latté orders with a shot of this or that?

I’m sorry. I want to come around the counter and give you a hug.

I want to tell you it’s okay that it takes you a little longer to get my drink or to heat my scone. I want to tell the flurry of baristas to just slow down a little.

After all, I bet you have a story to tell. Are you a veteran? What have you seen?

Were you at the top of your game—a CEO or an academic?

Were you a solid and loyal employee for a company that repaid you by downsizing or moving away?

Why are you here?

I could ask but I just think that would be rude. But I want to hear your story.

Why are you here?

And then I think about how I’m suddenly seeing so many older people in jobs where they shouldn’t be—at the checkout line at Walmart, handing me my burger through the McDonald’s window, mopping the floor in the grocery store.

All of them are someone’s mom or dad, someone’s grandpa or grandma. What if you were my dad? What if an impatient punk lit into him for taking an extra ten seconds to gather his thoughts and count the right change? I’d wanna punch that kid.

I really hope you aren’t doing this because you have to, but I suspect that isn’t the case. I wish the economy wasn’t tanking and COVID wasn’t turning everything upside-down.

Sir, I’m not sure why you’re here. I don’t know what circumstances led you to put on the green apron and headset and heat up my scone for me.

But I appreciate you. Whatever your story is, I appreciate you.

5 thoughts on “To the Old Man Working at Starbucks

  1. Linda, what a lovely post. I also have seen older people working in places I hadn’t imagined them working. Perhaps that Starbucks might be a dream job for him. I can hope that at least. But I have noticed many older people working who can’t afford to retire.

  2. Hi Linda, thank you for this thoughtful article. Maybe sometime you will be able to sit down with one of these seniors and write a human interest story.

  3. LInda, I appreciate this post for perhaps a different reason than most. At nearly 69, MIke and I have Social Security and some retirement savings, but I have not let go of my dream of working at a fast food place someday – like Chick Fil A – where I can wait on people and be a listening, maybe maternal (ok, grandmotherly) presence to the younger workers. I’ve just been too busy to go look for a job like that! I would love to hear this man’s story too. Perhaps, like me, he is there not because he has to be but because he enjoys it!

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