Wednesday, September 2, 2009


Tuesday afternoon found me sitting at a table by the window in Borders, a long stone’s throw from the Toyota dealership where my car was being serviced. There is nothing special about the table per se. Four square feet of laminate decorated with pictures and descriptions of various coffee beans. Yet it is a place where I have sat many times before, sipping coffee, thinking, and watching people. From my discreet vantage point I can see people entering and leaving the store, and observe people around me.

It was a quiet day in Borders, and there were just a handful of people drinking coffee. A middle aged couple, sitting without conversation, he with latte, she with iced cappuccino; an elderly man sitting alone staring into space over an empty cup; two Seattle’s Best executives discussing promotions and problems with the duty manager – and me, thinking, waiting, watching.

This part of Borders’ store is different from the rest. Here people talk in normal voices, whereas in among the aisles of books customers and staff confer in murmured tones, as if they were visitors in the nave of some great cathedral.

The senior of the two corporate representatives handed the duty manager a small pin, a star, for services recognized. I had not noticed before, but Seattle’s Best clearly operate a staff reward system similar to that of McDonalds. I’m sorry to make such a connection, but there it is. Is more of the corporate world, in which I am a complete and ignorant stranger, like this? I really ought to pay more attention to the uniform of the next person who serves me or sells me something.

I also liked the way in which, as I paid for my coffee, they asked me for my name. It comes across as a personal touch, even though it is merely a way of identifying an order. It is far more pleasant than being given a number at a bustling deli counter, or worse: “You, at the seat by the window? Yes, you! Writing in a notebook. Your cappuccino is ready!”

1 comment:

Saintly Ramblings said...

Perhaps the "pin" scheme ought to be adopted by the church. We could have a font-shaped one for excellence at baptisms; a chalice-shaped one for deft handling of the wine-filled cup; a two-fingered one for scripturally-worded blessings .....