Friday, October 15, 2010


Early into this youth ministry bit, I realized that teens are loiterers. Loitering is a fun word to say and apparently fun to do, because teens loiter everywhere. Teens loiter in the parking lot at St. Gertrude, and they loiter at Starbucks.

I will arrive at Starbucks for a meeting and the teens will already be loitering, taking up space at the shop without having made a purchase. Now, I can understand why this would happen. Teens don't have that much money, and if they do, they probably don't want to spend it on coffee at a Youth Group planning session. There are much better things to spend money on, such as movies, silly bandz, Star Crunch and Monster. Nevertheless, I'm instantly embarrassed by the situation, and immediately feel obliged to purchase something.

The problem here is that I'm not into the artistic, caramel-drizzled coffee treats, iced and with a splash of whipped cream. I like a straightforward drink, so I go with a regular coffee every time. This is also the cheapest thing on the menu, which works out twice over.

Once I have my loitering panacea, I breathe easy and spend the remainder of the meeting with the teens huddled around two tables, for two hours, staring at the centerpiece drink.

Starbucks recently caught on to the brilliance of my plan and sought to strike me down. It happened like this:

I walk to the counter right before our meeting is about to start and, listen to this, I say, "Tall Pike Please."

Here you'll notice my conversion to speaking Starbucks, my familiarity with the abbreviation of the name Pike Place Roast (their daily brew), and my good manners. Quite a bit happening in three words.

The proper response by the lady working the register is, "Would you like room for cream?"

I respond, "Yes, please." Again, notice the manners.

Then she struck me down. "That'll be $1.95."

At this point it was too late for me, as I had already practically thrown my debit card to her out of habit. My head started spinning.

"Did I say Tall"?
"A Tall is supposed to only be $1.50."
"Maybe I didn't say Pike."
"Why am I being punished?"
"I only purchase to prevent full-fledged loitering."
"Did I say Tall?"
"How much does a bag of this stuff cost...oh, only $9.95."
"This cup of coffee is costing me $2!"

After the card swipe, the proper question for the register-lady to ask is if I'd like my receipt.

Normally I respond "No," while smiling, but that night I went with the affirmative to see if it did indeed confirm doom.

Doom confirmed.

$1.95 for a small cup of coffee with room for cream, that's a 30% price increase.

This traumatic experience reminds me of a similar one from a couple years ago. I found this really cheap dry cleaner in Denver. $1 per shirt. $2 per pant. That is a good deal. But, once I moved out of my original housing situation with some friends, and into my apartment, that particular cleaner was over 5 miles away.

Just up the street I saw the sign for Paradise Cleaners and thought it was time check into a new place.

So I dropped by without placing a call in advance.

It had a much nicer storefront than the place I had been going and a friendly lady at the desk (this place was so nice that you couldn't even see the giant spinny machine track rack things that deliver the clothing by number). She kindly took my two pairs of pants and said they'd be ready for pickup the next day.

At this point I finally asked how much pants cost.

"$6. And $17 if they are silk."

Now, keep in mind that I've already handed her the pants to be dry cleaned. What can I do in a situation like that, other than say "Thanks" in a cheerful voice and scurry away in full knowledge that I just made the worst decision of my new adult life.

I drove with Katie back to our apartment asking the same two questions repeatedly:
  1. Did she really say $17?
  2. Are my pants made of silk?
It was about a 30 second drive to our apartment. In 30 seconds, those questions can be repeated at least 40 gajillion times.

I was sick to my stomach.

I called Paradise Cleaners and the kind lady answered the phone. In a small, shriveled voice I asked her how much silk pants cost to have dry cleaned.


In a smaller voice I whispered that I had just dropped two pairs of pants off and no longer wanted to use their service.

Sprinting to my car, I realized that I had just stood up to The Man.

The lady had my pants waiting at the front counter. I thanked her and drove the five miles to my cheap cleaner.

"$4.25 with tax."

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