An Emergency at Starbucks

I’m at Starbucks, where I occasionally find myself when my husband has a day off to play with our son. And everything was normal. The air conditioning was on. It was cold. I was working on a section of my book. Trying to get creative assistance from chocolate and almonds and green tea. Basically, I was one of several people doing what we usually do in our status quo Starbucks moments. When all of a sudden, there was a siren. A loud siren. The fire alarm. Suddenly everyone’s realities were interrupted and we all looked around at each other, smiling in a way we wouldn’t have without this sound of emergency. We had curious eyebrows, wondering if it was a test. But the alarm wasn’t going off. And it was loud. Everyone was covering their ears. And then, we were all asked to leave the café right away. And I wondered if this really was an emergency. Immediately I felt more grounded than usual. I imagined this must be common for people when something very important is about to happen. Not important like an email sent on accident or a business opportunity gone awry or a toddler running like crazy instead of sitting still. But really important, like the difference between living and dying. I thought about the man who’d been in front of me in line while I was waiting to order my green tea. He’d been talking to his woman friend in a really serious tone about how the last time he’d been in another Starbucks, there’d been a woman in front of him who’d asked for a ‘medium’ instead of a ‘grande’ and that the barista said to her, “Are you kidding me?” I wondered who this guy would be in a real emergency. If he’d finally have something more substantial to use his seriousness for. I imagined he’d probably be the one covering the small toddlers with his big belly to save them from falling debris. Now we are all outside. The manager is panicked, trying to explain to new customers who want lattes that the Starbucks is temporarily closed. The crowd is growing. People’s conversations are meandering away from this potential emergency and back to real estate, stubborn husbands, and the weather. And now it’s just been confirmed. There is not an emergency. The manager has just explained that one of the baristas accidentally leaned on the fire button when she was reaching to throw away her leftover chai. And that the fire department should be turning off the alarm any… ahh, now it’s off. He has unlocked the door. Everyone is getting up, ready to return to their seats.

Now I’m back in the air conditioning. And I kind of miss the siren. By all means, I’m not saying I wish it had been an actual emergency. It’s just that sometimes, it’s refreshing to imagine being called forth toward a larger purpose than just having a good attitude amidst all this American status quo.