Starbucks Order Pickup

I sat in a tall and glassy Starbucks on an early Sunday morning working on a piece of writing. My normal independent coffee shop was inexplicably closed.

Outside, gray ruled the landscape. I looked up from writing and saw three homeless men wearing backpacks and carrying bags approaching walking across the parking lot and headed toward the entrance. Two of them walked hunched over. The other strutted with perfect posture.

Sure, why not? I love it when a new homeless story just walks right up to me.

They entered. They were in their 20s or 30s or 40s. A barista greeted them. Strutter stopped at the counter and pulled out a phone to check something. The other men shuffled past me to some soft chairs around a small table. They sat down and started digging through their backpacks.

I watched them for a few seconds then turned to watch Strutter at the counter. He was picking up a tall coffee drink topped with whipped cream and a muffin.

But I hadn’t heard him order it. Then it hit me. He had ordered it on the Starbucks app on his phone.

Let me repeat that: a homeless man ordered a fancy coffee drink and muffin on his phone when it was 37 degrees and raining outside, then walked over with his friends from wherever nearby that had slept outside to pick it up.

A lot of people might judge Strutter for wasting money.

I don’t. I don’t know his story. If this extravagance brings a tiny measure of comfort in this fucked up country, so be it. Maybe his mother puts money into a Starbucks account and tracks his purchase and that way knows her son is alive and where he is. Maybe she even bought the phone for him.

Strutter had not ordered anything for his friends. Maybe they didn’t want anything.

Had he tipped? I bet he did.

Strutter called out to his friends and said, “Let’s go.”

He left Starbucks and waited outside under an awning. He sipped his drink and nibbled his muffin. His friends tarried as they repacked their backpacks. One of them broke away and walked up to the counter. He asked the barista for a piece of paper. She produced one. He took it back to the chair, wrote something down, then stashed it in the backpack. A note? A fragment of a poem?

A few seconds later they shuffled past me and out of the shop. They stood under the awning. Strutter came up to them. They talked for a moment, then walked into rain and across the parking lot. I followed them until they disappeared from view.