Starbucks, the name itself screams out the dignity of the brand. Good looking and well-dressed people serving smiles together with coffee and shakes, pop music buzzing inside the ambiance, young couples sipping on their favorite Mocha Latte. Romantic vibes all around.
Just like you, I used to think of this every time I heard the word Starbucks. But my experience at Starbucks today changed the way I look at it.
The month of love, February. Year 2020. One fine day, I am seated on a corner high chair inside Starbucks. Not very fond of coffee or shake, I grab a bottle of cold pressed watermelon juice so that I could justify my one-hour stay.
Meanwhile, more than gulping my favorite watermelon, I am busy staring at people here. I keep scrolling my phone for no reason just to show myself occupied.
And an unusual sight catches my eyes.
A guy enters. 30 something. Curly greasy long hair. Grey jacket that looks like it was wrapped on the same body for months. Dirty torn jeans. Strangely friendly smiles all over the face.
The glimpse makes me a little uneasy.
In less than an hour, I saw five homeless people visiting Starbucks who spent an average of seven minutes in this coffee bar. They all had one common thing to do. Entering, roaming here and there, peeping into trash bin, holding whatever eatable they grip, and eating.
I felt strange, weird, sad, scared. Emotions like that.
According to statistics, in the US, there were 567,715 homeless people in 2019. California alone has almost a quarter of the total homeless in the US. The state’s San Francisco city that has severe homeless crisis witnessed a nearly 30% increase in the number in the last few years.
Back to my experience with this city.
Still with some discomfort, I stopped a Starbucks lady passing by me. I whispered, “do you guys allow homeless people inside? Really?” She gently replied, “we literally can’t do anything, coz they are also humans.”
What I just heard from that Starbucks lady turned my mind upside down. For a moment, I felt ashamed of myself. How did I lack compassion when I saw those under privileged people!? Why did I find those smiles mysterious and scary when they were coming to me!? Why was I scared thinking they would follow me, snatch my phone and bag!?
A few minutes of self-introspection left me relaxed. Next, it was time to leave the place. While making an exit, I exchanged a smile with a new man scanning a giant trash bin placed outside the coffee house. This time, my smile was a real one.
PS: The article was written in February 2020.
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