Homeless, Broke and Ugly.  It’s one of the panhandler’s signs from the popular spot at the intersection of the freeway, police station, cannabis shop two blocks from the place I now call home. One of the daily reminders I am out of the suburban bubble. There is a Starbucks in the building where I live and I go every day to grab a beverage before walking to the harbor or wandering the neighborhood. Here’s a tribute to my new neighborhood, tales from the java lounge.

Monday: Waiting in line at Starbucks, a fellow patron is a  truck driver who tells me he has been unemployed for a month, got a generous severance check and is studying for a realtor’s license. He’s got 6 months of unemployment coming as long as he shows he’s made two job contacts per week. This week, he applied for security analysts at Facebook and networking director at another company. Which he followed up quickly by saying, I can’t do anything of those things, I just apply for jobs that I’m unqualified for so I can get my 6 months of unemployment.

Tuesday:  Waiting for a latte order and I watch construction across the street at the site of the adult bookstore demolished 2 months ago. I chat with a fellow patron who is a cop. He tells me about my new neighborhood, including an incident in which a dead body in the adult bookstore for over 24 hours before a customer found the deceased. He commented, how do you open and close a business and not notice a dead body?

Wednesday:  Mobile order Starbucks for the I drive to the office.  At work, I don’t call people. The most effective people I know will pick up the phone and call to make things happen. I am not one of those. I fear annoying people This week, I did my usual, sent an email with a  request. That wasn’t enough, my manager, agitated, directed “Get him on the phone. Today.”  There is no way I can get out of this. I jot down the bullet points and call. With relief, I leave a voice mail, I reference the email and tell him what I need. I purposely don’t leave a number. Two hours later, he calls me back. I answer with shock and awe. Wow, that was easy and the work is done.

Thursday: sipping my Starbucks, on my walk, I have an epiphany. I approach certain parts of my job by task and not with intent. Sure, I “contacted him.” I did enough to be able to say, “I tried.”  Like the guy applying for jobs, he can say he tried to find a job, but he did the tasks without intent. The employees in the adult bookstore were barely trying to work.  Come on, how do you miss dead body? Yet, I have no basis to comment with disdain since I didn’t want to make a phone call. I was content with “try.” and see what happens. Shame on me. I don’t order a beverage at Starbucks and say, please try to make me a tall decaf soy hazelnut latte.  I am reminded of a quote from Star Wars, Do or do not, there is no try. 

Friday: I’m at Starbucks by 6:15 am. I strengthen my resolve to get over my phone call phobia as I wait for my latte.   I see a guy in line who looks really familiar. He is getting a coffee and a bag of almonds. When he pays, I glimpse the writing on what appeared to be a blank piece of cardboard.  It says Homeless, Broke and Ugly. The next day, the Baristas tell me there are a few regular customers who come in with their signs before starting their day. Starting my day at Starbucks has new meaning, the barista is not going to “try” to make my drink and it will be a daily reminder to do or do not, there is no try.