Anyone can be part of a solution to the daily grind

This article was originally published in North County News.

I’d been counting down the days. Rumors finally melted into a bona-fide reality that still seemed impossible: Starbucks was coming to Safeway. And not just any Safeway, but our very own Jacksonville Safeway.

My friend and nanny, Pat, kept me updated on the progress during her weekly grocery store runs. Reporting on its size and location, she speculated on the allocated space, wondering if folks would have room to sit and sip.

In the last few days before the grand opening, she showed me the latest evidence as I continued to question the unbelievable news. Clearly marked at the end of the Safeway receipt was printed, “You have purchased 0 of 7 toward your “FREE STARBUCKS.” It was just too good to be true – a frequent-buyer Starbucks program? The excitement kept building.

Finally, opening day arrived. Pat burst in after her early morning Safeway stop with my customary order – grande skim cappuccino with one packet of pink stuff- minus one customary annoyance – the need to nuke it in my microwave. It was still hot when it arrived at my house.

Pat recounted the hectic debut complete with Starbucks’ on-site management and training; two trainees and just as many supervisors swarmed around the setup, reviewing orders and procedures while Sharpie pens short-handed cryptic codes on the famous cups.

On the fourth day (since its opening), I ventured out for my first Starbucks visit with my friend, Beth, before we began an eight-hour trip to my parents’ home. Nestled beside the fresh flowers, the coffee stand tucked its pungent java-romas just inside the entrance where no customer could possibly ignore its presence. At 8 a.m. that Saturday, Starbucks sported a line of folks two thick and five deep.

A self-proclaimed coffee snob, Beth pounced on the opportunity to check out the new Starbucks while we patiently waited to order. Nearing the front of the line, we realized the young lady working was alone. Pleasant, but aware of the growing line, she quickly took our orders, carefully jotting down our preferences. She paused, obviously gathering her thoughts before flashing a winning smile and asking Beth, “Would you mind watching the coffee and let me know if it is going to overflow?”

A bit stunned, but certainly willing, Beth agreed as we both giggled and shook our heads. “Nothing like a little customer participation,” I offered. As our graceful server moved effortlessly from coffee to filters to milk to foam, we watched Beth’s coffee drip steadily into her cup instead of the pot.

“So how do you like this job,” I asked the young woman.

“I love it, but it’s a two-person job,” she replied. “The other girl didn’t make it in,” she continued as she moved through her scripted preparations. “So, it’s a little crazy.”

“It’s time,” Beth alerted us. And the young woman switched the cup to the coffee pot in a split-second move. She finished frothing the foam for my cappuccino while we paid. She flashed that smile again, thanked us and was helping the next in line before we’d even grabbed our napkins.

As we sipped our cherished coffees, we noted the grace of our young server. “That took some nerve to ask a customer for help,” I remarked.

“And to keep smiling and pleasant while the line mounted,” Beth added.

“But when she asked you to help her, the wait seemed to disappear,” I continued. With one thoughtful, creative move, we became part of the solution.

Not bad for a four-day veteran. Not bad at all.