It was only on Saturday that I felt that the first week of working as an intern was over. Six days ago, it was Sunday then, I was swimming in panic at the seemingly trivial question as to what the dress code was at the office. The issue of a necktie was of paramount importance at the time. Aside from the dress code, there was also the matter of parking, of travel time, of food and water supply, and of parking fees. Sure, it wasn’t like I was going on Man vs. Wild, but I guess we can bend the notion of what “the wild” is with a little imagination. With all that I just ended up sleeping it off.
When Monday finally came, I was lucky there was no catastrophic event like getting pulled over for a traffic violation in Makati or bursting a tire along EDSA. Things were surprisingly smooth with only an orientation during the morning and a whole afternoon of intense sitting. It was the deep breath before the plunge I suppose. True enough, all the work came in the following days. Tasks were assigned and I, along with the other interns, did our tasks in silence like monks in an abbey. Monday was also the day when the LocGov grades were released. It was also the time I found out that three people in our class did not make the passing mark. After that, the rest of the day just crashed.
Indeed, the first week was full of surprises. One of them was picking up the parking bill as I left work on the first day. I scrolled my eyes down to the bottom: P175.00. There would have been tears if weren’t for the magic words from the HR – “reimbursable parking expense.” Gotta love perks. The drive back home after work was a tough one. There’s always the traffic and the usual jerks on the road. Long drives going home always remind me of that first job at Red Cross near the North Harbor. Driving for almost two hours every day. I couldn’t take it and left after two weeks. It seems EDSA was the real test for ideals.
The days went by quickly. As soon as the work came falling on my lap, the hours just kept burning. Time-out was at 6 o’clock and the drive back home took around an hour. Back home there was just enough time for a meal, a shower, and (if I’m lucky) an hour for personal reading, and then sleep. The day began at half past five in the morning or a quarter to six due to the snooze function. Shower. Breakfast. Change. Drive back to the office and the cycle continues. The only relief is the return of friday nights. For a change, I don’t have anything to worry about on saturdays. Weekends were what they were before law school – ends of the week. My bag stayed zipped throughout saturday and sunday and it felt great. Such is life for the next five weeks.
“The usual,” the customer said.
“Ok, Sir,” replied the cashier and she punched in the order.
The customer then fingered out some old bills from his wallet and handed them to the cashier. He moved to the side of the store and had a chat with his companions while waiting for his usual drink.
I can’t remember the first time I heard “the usual” as an order at Starbucks. Although I would bet my money that it was in a movie. Maybe it was You’ve Got Mail or When Harry Met Sally I can’t remember but all I know is that those were movies in cafés. Back then I had the impression that it must have been quite cool to dispense with the usual formalities of specifying an order. Instead of giving out an order like the others, “the usual” seemed to say, “Hey I’m a regular here, you know me and what I want, so on you go.” It sets one apart, no doubt, from the people who come and go to coffee shops. It gives the impression that there’s a secret club lurking in the coffee shop and oh do we love secret clubs. Perhaps the effect is doubled when it’s done at Starbucks where a cup of coffee costs more than some full meals.
Starbucks will always be more of a status symbol than a coffee shop to me. I’ll never understand why coffee would be served in sizes so large. A grande or venti cup of brewed coffee could fill three to four cups. Even with generous sips, the coffee would probably be tepid by the time you get to the bottom half. For a latté, it’s almost like drinking a glass of milk given the sheer size of it. And to top it all off, it’s all served in paper cups by default. Sure you can have it mugs, but only if you ask. One would be better off going to the new third-wave coffee shops sprouting up these days. Same prices for excellent coffee.
“The usual, Sir,” the server said as he handed the cup of coffee with a napkin prostrated on the top.
The customer took it and then smiled. He walked away along with his colleagues, all of whom holding their little cups and napkins in their hands.
Probably the only drink I’d been willing to buy at Starbucks is a tall brewed coffee. Black. I’d buy it mainly because of the strange coffee grounds they use (some exotic African bean sourced from local farmers from God knows where). It costs P100 and to stop me from getting a monetary stroke, I just apply some good ol’ accounting tricks. In my personal books then, I record the P100 as P50 rental expense for the space of Starbucks for x hours and P50 for the coffee. Not a bad deal, I suppose, considering that a Family Mart 8 oz. Americano is P55 and I usually take out. See? Accounting’s good not only for the wallets. So the moral lesson of the story is: never take-out in Starbucks.
“I’ll buy you coffee,” she said.
“No, you don’t have to. You really don’t,” I replied.
“I’ll buy you coffee.”
“Tall, brewed coffee. Black,” I cried in surrender. She took no quarter it seemed.
She stood up and walked to the counter and soon came back with a tall cup wearing a neat napkin on top. I thanked her for the cup. And that’s how I ended up with a cup of Starbucks coffee from my girlfriend.
As planned: we didn’t take out.