CHRIST IN WINTER: Reflections on Faith & Life for the Years of Winter…
I once waited at a Starbucks, without buying anything, for a business meeting. I used the restroom as I waited. Nobody told me the rest room was for paying customers only. Nobody called the cops on me just because I was sitting there, not ordering anything.
I wasn’t ordering anything because I was waiting for two white District Superintendents [Methodist for sub-bishops] to interview me for a job. I knew they would buy coffee for themselves once they got there, because most of the DS job description is drinking coffee. I figured if they saw me with nothing on the table in front of me, they would be embarrassed to get coffee for themselves without offering to buy me some time, too. That worked.
I point this out because two black men, waiting for a white businessman, to discuss a business deal, were denied access to the restroom at a Starbucks in the upscale Rittenhouse Square neighborhood in Philadelphia because they were not customers, since they had no coffee on the table in front of them, and were arrested and spent the night in jail because… they were black. That is the only explanation, because our circumstances were exactly the same, except I am white.
I was really surprised this happened at a Starbucks. I like Starbucks. I consider them to be civilized oases in the midst of an uncivil world. You can tell they are civilized by how much they charge for a cup of coffee. But I like Starbucks.
We’ve been to many Starbucks outlets where the happy baristas were black people and where at least some of our fellow caffeinates were black. On road trips, Helen and I often stop at a Starbucks to use the rest room, because they have nice, clean rest rooms. As we travel on highways, I watch carefully to catch sight of a Starbucks sign, that strange green Medusa-like figure. I memorize which exits have a Starbucks so we even if we don’t need one on the way there, we know where one is on the way back. When we moved to Bloomington and ATT thought a year or two would be an adequate period in which to get our internet hookup accomplished, we daily went to a Starbucks [there are 5 in Bloomington, and I have used the rest rooms in 4 of them] to use their Wi-Fi.
Let me repeat, I like Starbucks. Like their Wi-Fi. Like their rest rooms. Like their baristas. Like their coffee. Like their pastries. Like their ambiance. Like their mysterious Christmas designs. I’d like all that more if they charged a little less, but I like Starbucks.
Except for toll-road service plazas and airports and stores. For some reason, the baristas at Starbucks stores in toll-road service plazas and in airports and in grocery stores are not nearly as interested in serving customers or smiling as are their counterparts in free-standing Starbucks stores. I suggest to black people that they should have business meetings at those Starbucks stores, Their employees will not call the cops on them because they are not interested enough to do so.
Or perhaps black folks could go some place for their meetings where they will be treated the same as white folks, like Starbucks promises to be in the future. I hope they keep that promise. We need those civilized oases. For everybody.
I tweet occasionally as yooper1721