This holiday season in downtown Washington seems unusual, though I’ll admit it’s been several years since I last worked here in late December.
In 2000, when I worked for Shandwick at Metro Center, everything came to a grinding halt about Dec. 15 and didn’t pick up again until the New Year. This year, on the other hand, our office is rocking with new business. At the same time, it seems all of my clients are still going strong, plus the streets are packed at night and you can’t get a lunch or dinner reservation anywhere in downtown. I don’t think I’m alone – the Metro seems to be more crowded this week than ever before!
So I’ve made a point of watching how people are reacting to the stresses of work and the holidays. Loads of grim-faced people streamed out of the Farragut North station this morning after having endured an especially cramped ride on the Red Line (even more cramped than what I would normally describe as “especially cramped”). The weather was cold and overcast, so like many of my fellow commuters, I hit the Starbucks on the way to the office.
And then it happened. The barista handed me a grande peppermint skim latte with an unexpected surprise: a smattering of red sprinkles on top of the foam and a wish for a Merry Christmas. It was something in her voice that made it really, really genuine. In a split second, it seemed as if the entire store got brighter.
I moved aside and watched the scene for a moment. Grumpy office workers walk in the door, and by the time they reached the end of the line and had their two seconds with the barista, something changed. And it wasn’t just the fact that they finally had their cup of joe – I see that reaction every morning, and it’s much more subtle. But today, it was as if they ordered a side of smiles with their morning coffee.
I don’t know if the woman behind the counter at Starbucks is trying to change the world, or if she’s just trying to make a really good cup of coffee, or maybe something in between. But for patrons of the Starbucks at K and Connecticut, the Thursday before Christmas got a little unexpected boost.