I walked into my local Starbucks and a there was a man who had transformed an entire section into his own personal corner office. He had several tables and chairs arrayed around him topped with books and papers. Every available outlet in his vicinity had been commandeered to power a seemingly endless number of gadgets: laptop, cell phone, iPod, portable printer. I’m not sure, but I think I saw a humidifier. If there was an electrical fire, he would have been the first to go.
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Corner Office Guy looked so relaxed and comfortable I felt as though I was invading “his” space. I was reluctant to sit down but then I remember I had overpaid to be there too. I don’t complain about the price of coffee at Starbucks because that’s not all I’m there for. When I just want coffee, I go to Dunkin Donuts. When I want ambiance, I go to Starbucks. It has comfy chairs, good service, nice music, and an air of safety and serenity. It’s not just a coffee shop. It’s a cool meeting place, and apparently, an impromptu office space.
With his face illuminated by the glow of his super-sized laptop, and a blue tooth ear piece plugged into the side of his head, Corner Office Guy looked like he was all about taking care of business, but looks can be deceiving. I soon realized why the seat closest to him was open and available. He was talking on his cell phone using his outdoor voice. Cell phones have obliterated the line between convenience and courtesy. We should seriously consider bringing phone booths back. Just because you can have a conversation anywhere, doesn’t mean you should.
I don’t think I would have minded if he were on the phone wheeling and dealing. If he had been negotiating a low interest rate on a business loan or tracking down a missed delivery from Fed Ex, I would have respected that. But the intimate details he revealed in what should have been a private conversation transformed him from Corner Office Guy to Too Much Information (TMI) Guy.
He regaled us all in Starbucks with a story about a recent sexual affair he’d had with a married woman in the Hamptons. They “saw” each other no less than four times a week. Things were fine until her husband got suspicious and decided to test her fidelity by insisting that she – his wife - sleep with him. She did. And this was too much for TMI Guy. As he explained to his friend on the phone (and to all of us in Starbucks) he had to break up with her. He simply couldn’t stand the idea of his girlfriend, sleeping with her husband. Classy.
Why do I know this? I shouldn’t know this. Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell has its place. I think it’s Starbucks. If we bring back phone booths we should also seriously consider bringing with it other things so severely lacking in our culture like boundaries, discretion, shame.
I expect this kind of shenanigans at Dunkin Donuts. But Starbucks has standards, an unspoken code of conduct. I don’t expect us all to sip our latte’s in silence. But if we’re going to spend a few hours together we should at least agree to use our indoor voices, share the electrical outlets and not inflict ourselves on each other. Starbucks might start charging for coffee and the show.
Oddly enough I went to Starbucks to write this week’s blog. I don’t remember what it going to be about, because TMI Guy’s story took its place.