The Seductive Power of Coffee and Clinging

Starbucks coffee

By Angela Noel

December 28, 2017

I have a teensy weensy Starbucks addiction. The app seduced me. Though remembering my stupid password is probably the hardest and most frustrating trial of my life (and I’m including childbirth), I love the simplicity of paying with that barcode and walking away with an expensive little piece of indulgent heaven.

Because earning those reward stars (though my husband informs me they are worth less than a penny) makes me happy, I choose to go more often than I should. They’ve got me. They got me good. But this post isn’t about Starbucks or the wondrous app. It’s about a real jerk.

Recently, my app failed me. I stood red-cheeked with my arms filled with gift cards, a mug, and a steaming peppermint mocha with no way to pay for it all. The barista all but rolled his eyes and shunted me to the side while I struggled to remember my password in order to add funds to my account. Flustered, I could feel the green-aproned fellow judging me for my incompetence.

So, I left with only my mocha. My dignity lay in tatters on the warm gray tiles of the well-swept floor.

A week later, I returned to the Starbucks to find the evil barista taking orders behind the counter. I sensed his disdain as he no doubt recognized my distinctive red coat. I took a deep breath, ready for the eye roll. “What’s a Black and White Mocha?” I asked.

“You know,” he snarked, “it’s dark chocolate and white chocolate mixed together.”

“Oh,” I didn’t want to look him in the eye. “I’ll have that.”

“What size?” He sighed, as if I was too stupid to be alive.


Though I’d planned to stay awhile, I wanted to get out of the glare of this rude person’s spotlight. So, I scooted out of line and waited, toe tapping, for my drink.

Confronting the Jerk

But I didn’t leave. Being chased from a Starbucks seemed stupid, even wrong. I sat, determined to enjoy my moment and my mocha. Because I have some experience with questioning the stories in my head, I thought I had better pay attention. I heard the barista talking to other patrons and he used the same tone with them that he had with me. Wait . . .. Was I reading into that tone? Was I clinging to a story? I sipped my Black and White Mocha. I watched and listened.

Actually, he was quite friendly. He laughed and talked and yes, there was that tone, but now I think I’d got it all wrong. I waited awhile and when I’d downed the last drop of mocha, I made my way to the door.

Directly in my path, the barista crouched over a trash can, swapping out the bag for a fresh one.

“I’m not looking forward to going out there,” I said, catching his eye and nodding to the negative eight-degree Fahrenheit air just outside the glass doors.

He didn’t hesitate. “Right? I had to go outside earlier and I thought I was going to die! It’s terrible!” The bag billowed in his hand. “Have a great night and stay warm!”

Clearly, those eye rolls didn’t happen. I made the whole thing up in my mind. The jerk, of course, was me. Through the lens of my embarrassment,  I made wild assumptions about what the barista was thinking. I interpreted his actions, his words, his tone, all wrong.

A moment later, the frigid air took my breath away. But, better cold outside than in.

Your turn: Have you ever misinterpreted someone else’s actions only to discover your mistake? What did you do?

Note: There’s a few cognitive biases here . . . can you spot them?



Author: Angela Noel

On a quest to become a better human, I write about parenting, leadership, and personal development. I tell my stories so you can find your own.

51 thoughts on “The Seductive Power of Coffee and Clinging”

  1. Wow. I have the Starbucks app too, and um, it never asks for my password. Am I in danger of being hacked by coffee bandits? Hmmm. And yes, I have misinterpreted another’s actions myself once or twice. I think you handled this very well. Good for you! (even if the barista HAD been mean, you’d have done the right thing. Kill ’em with kindness, I say) xoxo

    1. I always seem to have to enter my password! Who knows why? Maybe I seem like a bandit. Thanks for the vote of confidence! It’s not always easy to change my mind after a judgment has formed, but it’s so important!

  2. Oh my, the number of times I’ve prejudged and misinterpreted. To me they go hand in hand. Our prejudices put us in the position to misinterpret. If I am already convinced that I am right and it can’t be my fault then whatever word or action is directed toward me I will find a way to make it reinforce my position. Assuming I even take the time to give those words and actions some consideration. I was once pretty convinced that if it wasn’t for jumping I’d never reach a conclusion. But then I got older and slower and took more time to really listen to the words and watch and experience the actions and now the world around me is better.
    A good cup of coffee helps.

    1. I love this comment–thank you so much. Maybe it is time and wisdom that helps bring both context and kindness into the picture. I admire those twenty-somethings out there that have this kind of understanding. But, I love what you said, “now the world around me is better.” The world didn’t change–we do.

  3. Great thoughts, Angela! My frustration with the App stems from the seeming inability of Target Starbucks to credit my purchases. I have missed “bonus stars” (meaningless as your husband may feel them to be) because those purchases were not recognized.

    My Starbucks addiction is truly just a coffee addiction. “Hi, my name is Norm, and I am a coffee addict!” Trying to balance frugality with need, I sit at my desk with a homemade Pour Over.

    Thanks for your reminder to pause, take a breath, and carefully evaluate before we leap!

    1. Hi Norm! A homemade pour over sounds pretty fantastic! I’m glad you appreciate the chance to pause. It’s not always easy to be sure! (Particularly if your stars aren’t showing up!)

  4. Oh, girl! I feel you on the Starbucks addiction. I had to delete the app from my phone, because I realized I was spending an embarrassingly large sum of money on overpriced coffee every month. Now, it’s paid for by my weekly cash allotment or no coffee for me.
    I think I’ve definitely assumed someone was being rude, but likely it was me needing an attitude adjustment. That said, I wonder if the guy could have been more friendly? I think if someone is really being nice and accommodating, their actions/attitudes won’t be as easily misconstrued. If you sat and observed him with an open mind and you still noticed him being salty, maybe he really was being that way??

    1. Just thinking about deleted my app makes me sad! But it might be necessary. Good for you that you have the self control with your cash allotment.
      You know, I think he just had that kind of attitude that isn’t bad intentioned at all, just didn’t jive with me. I definitely get the sense that the rest of the people he talked to felt like he was just fine and friendly. Sometimes its all about the synergy. We probably won’t be best friends. But, that’s ok. I’d much rather think good things about him than think he was being a jerk–better for me that way! 🙂

  5. Thank you I needed this today. It is so easy to put my insecurities onto others. People are busy and not everyone is perky (I’m not by the way) and I needed the reminder not to read more into a situation than there is.

    1. Oh, I’m so glad it had some relevance for you! I really don’t like feeling grumpy with other people–but sometimes I just get stuck. Getting unstuck takes a little work, but is so worth it.

  6. You just made me remember that not only do I miss Mexican food from the USA, but I really miss Starbucks. We do have one here, but it is in Koln, not on every corner like they were in Michigan.
    I too tend to create a much worse version in my head that what actually happens most of the time. I love that you stayed to evaluate the situation.

    1. For some reason, I’ve loved coffee shops for a long time–what’s the coffee culture like? Do you have little local shops instead of Starbucks?
      (And YES to good Mexican Food. I went back to my home state of California for Thanksgiving–more carnitas burritos please!)
      Also–so glad I’m not alone in these little brain funks. Taking the extra time isn’t easy, but it is worth it!

  7. I think there are just too many things that require passwords- I can’t remember them all. I have like ten just for work and they all require different things!

    I think we’ve all been a little biased and judge mental but you did the right thing 🙂 not many people do!

  8. Great post, Angela. I think we all do that, interpret other’s actions through our own lens. Our lenses can become skewed sometimes when we’re dealing with our own emotions, can’t they? I loved your cognitive biases posts. Are you going to write more?

  9. Your post hit home, because my hubby is the same way with his Starbucks app and stars! Your post illustrates the perfect example of what all of us do every day, which is, assume we know what others are feeling and thinking or the motivation behind their actions. I love the quote by, I think Wayne Dyer, who said, “what others think about you is none of your business.” So, even in cases where people are judging us or (heaven forbid) don’t like us, it’s not really about us anyway.

  10. I think I am the only one in my office that doesn’t have that app. Everyone looks at me strangely when I pay for my bagel with money rather than my phone!

    I am impressed with the way you took time out to notice the way the barista was reacting to you. I guess if I put myself in his shoes, I wouldn’t mind if a customer had trouble with their app, if anything, I’d feel embarrassed along with her. Anyway I’m glad you managed to resolve your feelings before heading back out into the cold.

    1. Me too! Since -8 is no joke, having warm fuzzy feelings inside myself and with other humans is probably the only defense against the chill!
      I agree with you, I’d be embarrassed and try to help. And he did–but I think I was too caught up in my own frustration to notice if he was feeling empathy for me. Funny how that is. Too much in my own head.

      1. But you worked it out in the end. 🙂
        I think it can be really hard to come out of your own world and notice those kinds of things.

  11. Well I would have thought the same thing and I’ve been there too. It’s only recently I started to evaluate (like you did) how that person is acting around others. I’ve also determined that when I meet new co-workers or friends of friends, if they seem like an @sshole, sometimes it’s because they are the type of people that need some time to get familiar with you and to let their guard down. Then there are the 20% that after sometime I’m like, “wow, you really are an @sshole then I quickly cut any and all communication with them.

    1. That’s a great point about meeting new co-workers or friends of friends. Finding the right “rhythm” with new people can be such a dance. I agree with you on your point about the few that do really turn out to be bummers. A boss I had once told me, “If someone tells you who they are, believe them.” He meant, even if people don’t SAY, “Hey, I’m a jerk and will treat you like dirt,” their actions give strong clues. It’s important to heed those clues, I think. You’ve definitely got the right idea!

  12. I think I’ve done what happened to you plenty. I’m thinking it used to happen more when I was younger and more insecure, but I still think I over-analyze situations. Your post is a great reminder to look outside of our own bubble once in awhile. I’m guessing the situation is usually better than we are thinking. 🙂 Happy New Year, Angela!

    1. I think you’re right, age (or at least awareness) seems to make it possible to pause and reflect more. And now, we have a whole new year to practice it all again! Happy New Year to you!

  13. I think we all have a tendency to prejudge each other, in addition to our possibilities — not to mention the barista could’ve been bothered by a personal issue that he too couldn’t let go of! I applaud your efforts to understand in this well-written piece.

    BTW, a good password manager may come handy for those forgotten moments 😉 ☕

    1. Thank you! You’re absolutely right about the password manager. For some reason, I can remember many of my much more complex passwords, but the Starbucks one gets me every time!

  14. I love this Angela. I love that your determination and tenacity enabled you to have a more positive experience. I had a similar experience literally last night. I thought someone was bit of dick and also that they didn’t like me. After a bit of effort, I realised he was great and clearly had no ill feelings towards me. Yay for us 👍🏻

    1. Absolutely, yay for us! It makes a difference–just that little extra second. Happy of happiest New Year’s Day to you! What a great way to start the year!

  15. I’ve misinterpreted someone’s tone and/or facial expressions so many times… when you’re having a particularly crappy day, it’s THAT MUCH easier to do, I’ve noticed. My solution? Interact with as few people as possible when I’m irritable or having a bad day. Lol! 😛

    And, I have my Starbucks app set to use my fingerprint in lieu of the password… if you have the iPhone, I recommend doing that! <3

    1. Hi Sarah! Having a plan when a bad day hits is a great idea. I think you’re right, sometimes we just have to limit human contact or risk contaminating others with the gloom–I’ve done that too on the days when I just can’t get out of the funk.
      I can’t get the fingerprint thingy to work for me. I’m certain it’s user-error. Maybe 2018 is my year. 🙂

  16. This reminds me of a SATC episode, the one where Miranda feels judged by the girls taking phone orders at a Chinese restaurants. She thinks she’s being made joke of because of her life style and status. She goes to the place to confront her but finds out she’d been misinterpreting that giggle the whole time based on her own fears. A classic for me…

  17. I love this post, Angela. I am addicted to Costa coffee. My work takes me all over the county and I have a little satnav in my head where all the Costa bars are. My app wanted a password this week too. Of course I couldn’t remember the blessed password, so the app is binned.
    Do you have a reusable cup? Sorry, I am obsessed with waste at the moment. My reusable cup gives me great joy!
    All the best people wear red coats. 🙂

    1. Ha! I do have a reusable cup, but rarely bring it with me. You’re absolutely right that I should. If I go today I’ll tote it along because you reminded me!
      Also, I’m glad I’m not the only one that suffers due to password pain. ARGH those things!

    1. Thanks, Orla! It’s funny how those perceptions can so easily get in the way. It almost seems a silly question, but do you have Starbucks in your town?

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