Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Starbucks Triple Skim Vanilla Whack Job

As I make my way to work each morning down Madison Avenue, I often stop in my corner Starbucks for a nice Americano. Well a couple months ago, I began to notice a strange, wild-eyed woman becoming a fixture in the corner window seat. As the days and weeks passed by, I couldn’t help but become fascinated.

Each day she wears the same ratty fur jacket and Ugg-like boots, regardless of the spiking heat and humidity, and sits with her shabby personal belongings strewn about. Her hair is a long, witchy salt and black pepper—with the proper amount of matting, fitting for bag lady. She parks a wire shopping cart next to the table and reads a newspaper so close to her face that her nose is the only thing keeping the ink off her eyeballs. She occasionally “talks” on her cell phone, although I have reason to believe it may not actually work.

Since the warmer weather has set in, she’s taken to enjoying a bit of refreshing fruit for breakfast—an entire watermelon split in two—every morning. It crowds her small table and draws stares, but she devours it unphased with the complimentary plastic flatware. You wonder why the staff at Starbucks doesn’t chase her away. But I gather that she is a paying customer, as she nurses a venti something-or-other for the better part of the day.

Now my intention is not to be cruel in describing this woman to you. And sure there are plenty of crazy people in NYC. But I find it interesting that she wants to cash in on that Starbuckian vibe and culture. In a way it is an odd testament to the allure and ubiquity of the brand. And what is truly curious is that since I’ve started talking about her with coworkers, she has become a bit of an unwitting celebrity. We recount our sightings, and during an important creative meeting recently, about ten of us pattered on about her for a good ten minutes. Can you imagine? It’s funny how you just never know who’s talking about you.

Anyhow, since this has become a thing, I felt the need to document her on film. So I set about trying to snap a picture in the most inconspicuous way possible. This proved more difficult than I anticipated. I started with my camera phone first, which was not up to the task. I just couldn’t get close enough without tipping my hand. So I decided to take more drastic measures, and brought in my small digital snapshot camera. Again I was failing miserably, as I made many attempts to get the shot without being discovered. Finally…success. I know it’s a bit blurry, but it kind of adds to the whole mystique.

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