I don’t drink coffee. Never have. I know, shocking, a Real Woman who doesn’t drink coffee. I know I’m in the minority, along with a handful of others I know. What is the first thing you get asked if you go out for breakfast, or even go to a place of business? “Can I get you a cup of coffee?” It is an assumed thing. For me, it goes hand-in-hand with my philosophy of “acquired tastes.” If it needs to be acquired, why bother? It means it wasn’t good in the first place! I feel the same way about beer. But I digress.
Because I am not a coffee drinker, and I try hard to stay away from fattening pastries, I am not a regular visitor to coffee shops and donut havens. However, I will from time to time stop in to my local Dunkin’ Donuts – in the winter it will be for a Chai Tea or Hot Cocoa, in the summer for a fruit Coolata. Very yummy.
And each time I do, I am fascinated by the eclectic mix of people in there. One of the reasons I believe their tag line to be so effective is because each location is its own little version of the American “melting pot.” There are the construction workers getting a cup o’ joe before climbing into their trucks. There are the teenagers showing how cool they are by stopping in before heading to school. (At least I hope their next stop is school.) There are the stay-at-home-moms who have brought a child or two in for a special treat. There are the business-exec types swinging in for their daily grind, using their “frequent flyer” card. There is the group of older, retired men, who are sitting in the corner, enjoying some coffee and shooting the breeze with no sense of urgency. (I am jealous of them.) There may be a family or a sales person who is happy to have found a place to stop while on the road. And all of the “Real” people in this small bustling environment come in any shape, size, age, ethnicity and culture. The food, beverages and service is universal to all audiences. The same variety holds true for the people behind the counter. In this economy, the workers are not necessarily all the traditionally-expected teenagers and college students. There are plenty of older adults, from middle-age to retirees, who are hustling to make your coffee, coolata, or breakfast sandwich.
For some, this stop is daily, or at least frequent. For others like myself, it is a bit less often. Yet I can be assured of the same experience every time, and odds are good I’ll see someone I know standing in line. Besides the casual older men in the corner, or the mom who’s trying to get her child to sit still while eating a jelly donut, the visits are very brief. Stop in, get what you need, get out. Since I’m not a coffee drinker, if I ever offer to pick one up for a friend or co-worker, I ask them to give me very specific instructions as to what to ask for. Listening to others spout off their orders, and seeing the speed at which the counter person processes the information, can be intimidating. Heaven forbid if you hold up the line and the flow because you don’t know the answer to “Iced or Hot? Skim or regular? Turbo-shot?”
Someday I will be one of those Retirees, and I’ll sit in the corner, sip my cocoa and just enjoy the art of Dunkin’ Donuts people watching. But for now, I’ll blend in with that mini melting pot, grab my order to go and try not to spill my coolata in the car.