I have been in Austin
for just under 24 hours, and I think I might be lost. I know there is a Starbucks nearby because there is always a Starbucks nearby
; I know that if I go there that a reliable wireless connection can feed some of my addictions while a barista feeds another.
I enter and think to merely sit down and read; the familiar New York Times is on a shelf and offers perhaps a taste of home. I should probably buy a coffee, it's almost rude not to.
Anna is standing at the cashier's spot and I am the third person in line. She takes the guy's order, I think it was a grande skinny caramel latte, or maybe it was a cappucino. He asks for whipped cream, and from the way she asks another barista "Do I just write a W?" you can figure out she's maybe new. I'm next, and I don't know what to get. I have time, though, and there's nobody behind me. I ask, Do you mind if I just look at the menu some more? What do you think I should get?
She's wearing long sleeves, a sweater, in the 80 degree Texas December. Something itches or bothers her, and at the tip of her wrist poking out from the sleeve is the spaded tip of a dragon's tail. I can't help myself, and her whole arm tattoo become ten minutes worth of conversation. I have still not ordered coffee, and someone I can guess might be her boss suggests she "take your 15 now." Now she's on my side of the counter, and I sit down to hear about her life. I've known her for less time than it takes to read a chapter of "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance" and I'm more intrigued. I don't have a cigarette because I don't smoke, so I feel like I can't help her, but maybe I could go get a pack. Is something wrong here?
Her break is over so I decide it's as good a time as any to order my coffee. Now she's washing dishes or so it seems and I don't know why; I feel a little angry because I really wanted her to make me a latte. Instead I order a plain coffee- I've never had one of those here before- and remember that this barista I don't bother exchanging pleasantries with is the drop dead gorgeous one who had caught my superficial eye when I walked in. I pay and sit down. Anna is now outside, talking to her boss. Why is she outside, I don't know, but I hear her ask him as she walks back in if she should even bother to punch out. I'm still standing at the register when she goes to pull the drawer from it. What happenned here? Did I get you in trouble somehow? "Just a little." She doesn't make eye contact, and it's got to be 20 minutes as I draw out my coffee because I don't want to leave before seeing her again. When I saw her coming back I had meant to ask when she'd be done, try the dumb line, what are you doing later?
I'm almost out of coffee and the Times can't hold my interest. Now she's leaving and I get up. Can you stay, can I talk to you? Not out loud I say to myself, how badly did I just screw this up? She won't say anything but no, I have to get home. She gets in a late-model Lexus sedan, so maybe if she lost a job at Starbucks it wasn't that big a deal. I finish my coffee, get in my car, and find I can't stay in Texas any longer. Somehow I'm shaken. I was interrupted before I got to ask the most important question of the dialogue, and now a girl I'd never met hates me because I talked to her at work. For ten minutes it seemed like something and now I only know she'll remember me as someone she never wants to see again. I'm probably overreacting.
I make a call to my new job, the location in San Diego, and ask if anyone cares when I get there. A woman I've never met tells me a big project starts on Monday and I'd better be there by then if I want to get involved. It's only a mental change, but suddenly I'm no longer hitting sixth street in Austin, San Antonio is out of the question, and the next thousand miles will take half as long as the first.