The Meaning Is Just The Same

Recently, while I was in line for my coffee at a Starbucks in Chicago, I was offered the opportunity to observe in wonderment the creation being fashioned for the lady in line ahead of me. I do admit that when I heard her order something called  a ” caramel frappucino venti”, it did get my attention – so I decided to watch.

First, a bit of coffee (not that much) then a lot of milk, crushed ice, then quite a lot of whipped cream. I thought it was done, but I was wrong. On top of the whipped cream, some caramel colored sugar syrup, squeezed out of a plastic bottle. (Wow!! 500 calories!! I checked online)

I don’t know why, but at the time, my mind detoured to the image of one of my very favorite paintings, called “Nighthawks” painted by Edward Hopper in 1942, which coincidentally hangs at the Art Institute in the same city.

hopper, nighthawks photo

I wondered how, (or even whether) Hopper would have depicted Starbucks, vs. the  NY  coffee shop which got his attention.

Mostly everything seems different of course: It used to be all (or at least mostly) about the coffee. Now it’s mostly milk. The white stoneware mug and metal spoon which got washed and re-used,  is now a paper cup, a cardboard holder, a plastic lid and straw, and wooden stir stick – soon all on their way to the landfill; and the stools have morphed into upholstered faux-leather chairs. And, not least, the price: that 10 cents cup of coffee  (probably around that in 1942, maybe even less?), has multiplied 50 fold (I think the lady paid almost $5 for her beverage).

caramel_frappucino starbuck's interior

When I sat down to drink my coffee, and look around, I realized that Hopper would likely have found the scene at Starbucks just as compelling – and for the very same reason: His subjects, instead of staring into space, lost in their thoughts, and oblivious to each other as depicted in 1942, now have their noses in their laptops, lost in cyberspace (or as Leonard Cohen calls it – “lost in that hopeless little screen”), and just as oblivious to each other.

Practice Tip Push PinPractice tip: Next time you’re at Starbucks, or on line at the bank, out for a walk, or…, smile, make eye contact and say hi to a stranger. You’ll be really surprised at how many times you will get a positive response (and enjoy  a nice chat). It will be a lot. We are all hungry for human connection – all of us. And remember too, (this is important) that if you are ignored, it has nothing to do with you. That person may be having a really bad day, going through a hard time, or really is “lost in that hopeless little screen”.

Be kind to yourself, (and smile at a stranger today).



About Michael Scott

Michael Scott is a life coach, author and teacher in the San Francisco Bay Area. After spending 35 years in business - coaching found him - and he's never looked back. Michael uses his coaching training and experience, in the service of his clients, as their constant and loving guide towards joyous, fulfilling lives which are genuinely their own. He lives with his dear wife in Sausalito, CA.

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