The daily grind

Jenna Gerling

‘Stater’ reporter Jenna Gerling visited the Kent Starbucks at various times during the weekend. Here’s what she saw.

The grind and spit of the steam of the espresso machine is a music of its own here.

Even from outside the Starbucks building, one can smell the strong, bitter aroma of coffee. Inside, the nearly overwhelming smell of the smooth, roasted beverages engulf patrons.

There is almost a foreign quality to the Starbucks lingo: “Grande nonfat caramel macchiato,” “Venti sugar-free iced coffee” and “Tall cinnamon dolce latte” are all terms Starbucks natives understand. To add to an outsider’s perplexity, small is tall, medium is grande and large is venti.

At Starbucks, all one has to do is wait patiently to witness something out of the ordinary. It’s interesting to observe the things people do when they don’t think anyone is looking.

9 a.m.

The early morning crowd consists of a few college kids rushing to class, craving a caffeine buzz, and several working men and women, laptops tucked under their arms, reading the New York Times as they wait in line.

A construction man on a cell phone carries three coffees in a travel case and pushes his way to the cream and sugar counter. His jeans are worn and tinged with a dirt-brown; his boots are heavy and tough, chips of yellow paint flake off the surface of his hat.

A woman removes her sneakers in the middle of the store and pulls winter boots from a plastic grocery bag. She then takes off her socks and wipes the fuzz from between her toes; it floats away and lands on the ground. She changes her socks and slips on the boots, placing the soiled socks and sneakers inside the bag. No one seems to notice her hygiene ethics.

A rolling sea of giggling and laughing, almost-graduated high schoolers in black, red and white swarm the small shop. All wear letter jackets with “Lacrosse,” “Wrestling,” “Baseball” and “Swimming,” stitched conspicuously across the backs. A man with a laptop shoots an annoyed look over his shoulder at a group of girls as they chew their green Starbucks straws and laugh as they look over at two boys ordering coffee.

The floor of the store is crowded with an assortment of thirsty people: toddlers, mothers, intellectuals and girls with dozens of tattoos that peek out from beneath their coat sleeves. A little boy in a Browns jacket and matching hat wiggles and stomps his feet as his mother tries to hold his hand. He bumps into the table where the man with the laptop is sitting.


Students continue to be so immersed in their work that they don’t even look up when other people sit at their table, scoot wooden chairs noisily across the unpolished floor or talk breathlessly on cell phones from across the room.

A family with two redheaded girls enters the store in a storm. The smallest of the children, about two years old, wears a Winnie the Pooh coat with sleeves that are too long. When she is handed a hot chocolate with whipped cream, the sleeves slip over her gripping hands and she drops the cup of liquid chocolate. Despite the sticky mess before her, she doesn’t flinch – she doesn’t even seem to be aware of it.

She is still allowed to hold the replacement drink that has been made for her.

9 p.m.

Seeing through the widows from the outside is difficult because they are fogged over with steam. The grand logo in the windows of Starbucks glows brightly, a green haze against the dark silhouettes of the night street.

Tonight, conversation is much more excited than in the morning or afternoon. Topics of discussion differ greatly among the night-time coffee drinkers, where girls in short skirts, pea coats and cowboy boots talk loudly about sexual positions. Mothers look nervously at their impressionable children, who don’t seem to have heard anything inappropriate.

A man rises to his feet when a tall, skinny woman wearing tight jeans walks in. She nervously pushes her dark cropped hair behind her ear when he comes close and hands her a card. They make their way to the cashier and he orders her drink for her.

The cashier jokes flirtatiously with a blonde customer when she asked for a rainbow M &M cookie. “I don’t know . I have to think about that,” he smiled slyly. He continues, whether consciously or not, to flirt with cute female customers.

A woman who sits near me seems tired and ready for a break; she drops her aqua blue purse and starts to scatter its contents onto the table: an Ace bandage, broken cell phone case, pencil holder and a can of Coke. Finally she finds a handful of change at the bottom of her purse.

She walks to the counter and returns with a shot of espresso and a packaged cookie.

After a few unsuccessful and struggled attempts to open her cookies up, I offer to help her. She begins to explain why she can’t open the bag:

“(My dog) was just after the cat . the leash got caught on my hand, and luckily the cat stopped at the top of the stairs,” she said, gesturing to her awkwardly bent finger, the tip of which was surgically cut off and put back on after the accident – this explained the Ace bandage.

Her left hand still looks swollen from surgery. Its surface shines under the dim lights. “I still can’t move it well, and this is from May 22,” she says.

As I leave, the smell of Starbucks lingers in my hair and clothes. Even outside the building, I smell like coffee.

Contact features correspondent Jenna Gerling at [email protected].