“Have you looked into getting it to a publisher?’
“Tripio. The book?’ I responded. Howard appeared to be not overly concerned with my book sales. ‘Oh, yea early on. But I found the process to be too much like looking for a job. Like sending out countless resumes…and crossing your fingers. I have had enough of that in my life.”
I paused a second to consider that response. I did send some queries out to literary agents early on. I reasoned that someone who received my query would like have a cup of Starbucks on their desk, just returned from Starbucks, or had stock in the company. I told myself over and over that Starbucks still moves the meter. But the random nature and “pick- me, pick-me” element of it all brought back too many memories of lay offs, restructuring and downsizing. There were too many scars, too many similarities. Direct publishing put everything in my hands. I didn’t know what I was doing but it felt way, way better. I did not want to get into my financial status with Howard. Pay check to paycheck would sum it up. Year after year. Tripio was right though. I did find my calling in becoming a dad. A windowed one for eight years. Now, I was sitting across the table from a millionaire who was in the coffee business with me a long time ago. It struck me suddenly that I should have called him in 1994 when I was considering leaving Starbucks. I was Lead Clerk at the store at the Metra station. I had a headache for two weeks as I decided what to do. Sitting here now, as a man changed so much by what happened in the four years I worked for Howard Behar and Starbucks, I know if I called him, he would have listened to me. Maybe he would have given me more wisdom. I mean, he is asking about my life now and he has no reason to. It would have been so easy. Instead, as the silence between us grew, I asked a question anybody with a blog and who had ever been to a Starbucks could have asked,
“What do you drink when you come here?”
“A tall american with an extra shot. You?”
‘Oh, I like to stay with a grande, or whatever they call it these days. Coffee of the day.” My mind was still too close to the money, the times of unemployment, my financial dirty laundry. If my old boss asked about it, I’d have to tell him. I didn’t want to, so I stayed with coffee. “Speaking of coffee…what did you used to say? We’re not in the coffee business-“
“We’re in the people business serving coffee, not the coffee business serving people.” Howard smiled as he finished. He seemed to enjoy taking that trip back to his Starbucks days. He glanced again to the street. This time he saw what he was looking for. ‘There’s my wife with the dogs. She doesn’t like to bring them around on her walks. Too many people ask about them. She wants to get her steps in.” It was friendly and matter of fact, but Howard had to go.
“Ok. I’ve got to get to work.” I said, knowing it was also matter of fact.
He and I stood up, both looking to make sure the table was clear of any debris. Had to be clear for the next customer.
“Well, thanks for your time. And thanks again for the blurb. I’m redoing the cover to highlight it.”
“If I run across any alumni from Chicago I’ll let you know.” I said as a send off. I had only really looked for Kevin Knox and Howard Behar. I did not look for any of the people I worked the most with and based the characters on. Mark, Doug, Sarah. The list goes on. I have had the passing fancy of tracking down all 500 or so recipients of that first IPO in 1992. I would write a quick page or two about each. What become of them all? Who, like Howard was rich and who like Kevin Knox and I were not. I was not sure why I offered that to Howard. But he seemed to appreciate it and smiled at me, adding,
‘I’d like that. Good to talk with you. Best of luck on the book ” Howard waved to his wife across the street. He looked back to me, “And especially with the family, Jerry…. You sound happy.”
“May I help who’s next?”