Starbucks, East 87th Street & Lexington Avenue SW, Upper East Side
You sit down at the long table of useless powermat charging spots, your back to a two-top with two guys chatting about some sort of show at Lincoln Center. One guy speaks in English, then the other responds in Spanish. This goes on for a minute, and you’ve got your ears out for chair movement that means you can shift to their vacant table. You’ve developed a sense for when people are going to leave, a collection of subtle sounds that almost always herald a departure, like the wind kicking up slightly when a train is less than a stop away from the platform where you’re waiting.
And then the guy gets up, you can hear that. And he’s in the corner of your eye, and then he’s moving towards the door. Alone. He has earbuds in, and he’s still talking as he gets further and further from his seat-mate. Once he’s outside, there’s another burst of Spanish from behind you: these sociopaths were sitting at a table with each other, talking to other people on their phone. Just by the laws of physics, as you know them, that’s cheating. You can’t have four people at a table with two chairs.
You’re stuck in a causal time loop trying to connect to the internet. You accept and accept, you get the landing page of Starbucks stories curated by some teenaged intern on a coffee IV drip, and then nothing. You’re stuck in a causal time loop.
“I think you’re a retarded-ass old woman,” a man equally as old but sounding infinitely more tongue-less than the lady in question says. “I’m a sick motherfucker. Ya old bitch.” “You are bitch,” the Slavic woman retorts. A barista comes over, and she says, “He’s assaulting me.” “I’m having an asthma attack,” he says. “I told her to bring me a hammer. I was nice to her. I don’t even know here.” They call him an ambulance, which is nicer than what you would’ve called him.
“Who’s she calling? The Welcome Wagon?” a guy to your right says to himself, and himself laughs at his joke.
He’s got beer or something in a brown paper bag, which isn’t the invisibility cloak people think it is. “Sir, you can’t drink that in here,” a barista says. “Now you’ve got to go.”
“I’ll do whatever the fuck I want. I ain’t no broke-ass nigga,” he says.
The Laughing Man says, “Hey, hey, you need to find your way outside.”
“You can suck my dick.”
The Laughing Man rises. “Really? I thought that’s what you do all day.”
Barista: “It’s okay, Grandpa,” then to the old man: “You need to get out of my store before you’re escorted out.”
It looks like there’s going to be an altercation, and you sit there, transcribing.
“You’re not even my type, I don’t fuck with black New York bitches.” We all find out simultaneously that he’s a Bostonian. You feel, as a Philadelphian, as if you’re the Turtle meeting the Spider on the ethereal plane of the five boroughs. “I’m biracial,” he says. He’s wearing sunglasses, and there’s a bouquet of roses on the windowsill next to him to him that was probably there when he sat down, because: who the fuck is he going to give them to?
“I hang out with James Brown,” he says. “You can suck my dick.” You are stuck in a time loop.
He holds up his cane to two women walking in. “This is a stick-up. Give me your money.”
The cops arrive. “She started it,” he says, when the barista gives them the run-down. “I live in Boston. I’m not homeless.”
“That’s your opinion,” the cop says, escorting him out. “Don’t come back. Don’t get arrested.”
He leaves, taking his cane and the bouquet of red roses to some unknown, unlucky person out there in the rising chill of the fall night. “You can suck my dick!” We are all stuck in a time loop.
4.5 stars, 4 or so outlets (not counting powermats, because they don’t count). 5 stars for moxie. 120 East 87th Street, Upper East Side. Bathroom code: who knows, but there’s another Starbucks down on 3rd Avenue, and their code is 11409.