My Starbucks Oath

My Starbucks Oath paid off yet again today.  Well, it’s not an oath, really.  It’s more of an affirmation.  Yeah, my Starbucks Affirmation.  That's better. But it’s powerful no matter what you call it, and I’ll share it with you today, with the hopes that one day it will pay off for you.  

I’m guessing we’ve all had moments where our destiny has spoken to us almost directly.  Like when you’re desperate for new job, and a recruiter calls you out of the blue with a new position that matches your background and career aspirations perfectly. Or when you’re having a hard time choosing between two outfits for an important event, and one of your choices ends up being dirty, making the choice obvious. Or when you’re standing in front of the bathroom line at Starbucks, wondering if it’s going to be clean or not, and the man walking out says “Sorry”.  You know, those times when the correct choice is so obvious that it’s almost as though the universe wrote it out for you. 

But sometimes the influence is more muted, and something you have to really look for.

Over the last few years, I’ve read a lot of books on mindfulness and meditation.  And one of the over-arching and recurring themes in them all is living in the moment and believing that everything that happens is destined.  One book even suggested an exercise to test out this theory.  It recommended the reader spend the next hour living mindfully and giving others the one thing you wanted most at that moment.  The book said that the universe would, in turn, give us our desires if we put our desires second to those of others.  So I tried it.  I happened to be in Boston at the time, and I decided to walk around and explore the city while trying out this exercise.  When I approached a door, before I tried to enter, I would hold the door for the person leaving or the person approaching behind me.  When I wanted to cross the street, I would wait for the next car to pass before attempting to cross.  I was amazed to find that the person I was waiting on always let me go first.  And I’m not exaggerating when I use the term always.  In every instance during that period of about an hour, my kindness was met with more kindness.  And I spent the afternoon in a glow of wonder.  

The next morning, I began the business function I was in Boston to attend.  I completely forgot about my mindfulness-induced bliss, and went back to living in stress.  

But in recent weeks, I’ve engaged in a similar type of exercise.  In Starbucks.  There had been so many instances where I’d walked into a Starbucks hoping to get some work done, only to find the place packed.  Everywhere the eye could see, there would be single people camped out at tables for four, or people sitting at every other stool.  And I would instantly get annoyed.  But then I went back to the mindfulness tomes I’d read, and I decided to switch up my attitude.  I decided to have faith that a table or space would open up for me if I queued up patiently and joyfully.  My Starbucks Oath.  And it hasn’t failed me.  When I go in and see a crowd, I think about this and know that a seat will be provided by the time I have my drink IF I want patiently and joyfully. And it has worked every time.  

Now, it may be that I have been patronizing only modestly-populated Starbucks establishments.  But I hadn’t questioned the validity of my oath, as it had worked every time form me. I thought my joyfulness was paying off, and attributed my string of good luck to faith and not a lack of population density.  

But today was the day that I thought this streak of good fortune would end.  My husband and I were planning to spend two hours working at Starbucks. We walked in innocently and were smacked in the face by mayhem.  It was like walking into a barrel of fish.  People were almost crawling all over each other, the line was almost at the door, and there was just one empty seat.  Just one seat in the whole almost-30-seat establishment.  AND there were several people waiting to sit down.  So we stood by the door perplexed and a little annoyed. What were all these people doing there?! Didn’t they have someplace else to go, so that we could sit down?  

First I had a thought that I’ve had on several other occasions in the past.  Like when we visited DisneyWorld in August.  Or during each of our trips to the airport.  And that thought is that there are just too many people in the world.  

But then I remembered my Starbucks Oath.  I told my husband about it, and suggested aloud that a seat would open up by the time our drinks came.  

I’ll be honest.  When I said a seat would open it, I said it with a tinge of uncertainty.  Like if it had been written in a script, the quote would have ended with a question mark, not an exclamation point.  Alas, a little of my faith had fallen away.  But I digress.   

We decided to get our drinks and hope that another seat would open up.    While he waited in the unbelievably-long line, I joyfully stood and waited, trying to stay out of the way (which sometimes feels impossible in a crowded Starbucks) while at the same time looking for the movement of someone leaving.  I stood in front of the one open seat, willing the person on either side of it to leave, and blocking it from the other seat-waiters.  

This went on for about 15 minutes.  Me looking around for movement.  My husband looking at me with uncertainty while slowly inching towards the register.  Me trying to meet his look with look of sheer confidence, while slowly losing confidence inside.  

By the time my husband ordered and went to the waiting-for-your-drink-to-be-prepared area, I started to fear that the oath wasn’t going to work out this time.  It seemed that the odds of someone leaving in the next few minutes were slim.  But I decided to hold my despair until we’d actually gotten the drinks (which can sometimes take a while in a crowded Starbucks), and then we’d see what our options were.  

My drink was called and still no movement.  

I turned around, thinking my Oath was definitely not going to work.  And then I saw it. The putting away of a book and the pocketing of a phone.  And the putting-away of items was being done by the person beside the one lone seat I’d been hiding/waiting for!  By the time my husband’s drink was called, the person had left and I’d swooped in to claim the only two seats in the whole establishment! Victory was ours! And I silently thanked the universe for not letting me down.  

Now who knows?  Maybe it was truly just fortunate timing. Or luck.  Or maybe it was truly my Oath paying off.  Who knows.  But I do know that we waited patiently, a seat opened up, and we were able to sit there for two hours and work.  

There are still too many people in the world.  Or at least in Starbucks on lazy Sunday afternoons.