What along strange Tripio its been





“This can’t be happening.”

It was nearly dinner time when the realization struck me. There would be no coffee available tomorrow morning.

But, indeed it was true. You see, I was visiting my family in Ohio and the house I was spending the night in was being renovated. Not in a half ass sense either. The specific room in question being the kitchen. A kitchen was not there right now.  All that remained of the old kitchen were four walls, a floor and electrical outlets. Outlets that could not be used to fire up a coffee maker the next day as the power was shut off. Luckily and conveniently, pizza was on the way for dinner.

Of course there was a Starbucks near the house.  Perhaps I had forgotten it was there. Or I had been so accustomed to seeing them everywhere these days that one no longer made an impression. A Starbucks was just part of the backdrop of an everyday life in this country. No matter. I had remembered it was nearby and would still be there in the morning. So I ate my pizza when it arrived, relaxed to some football on TV and later drifted off to sleep in the arms of a siren.

A short trip that began a long trip

Since I posses a morning chronotype, I was up by 5 the next day. As soon as I woke, I checked my phone to confirm the location and hours of that nearby Starbucks. I wrote in my journal for about 20 minutes before heading for my ritual, emotionally comforting morning coffee. I arrived a few minutes after six, and was not the first customer.  The three baristas had the coffee brewed, the music on and were ready to rock. Since I am old coffee guy from way back, I requested a Vente Italian and blueberry scone. You cannot beat the classics. I left a tip- Once a barista, always a barista- and headed for the door.

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But I stopped still right there. It had hit me. My cup and scone secured, I had let my self relax now. I was able to appreciate and recognize my surrounding again, now that I had a full coffee cup in hand. I breathed in that unique aroma of a just opened Starbucks location. In that instant I was standing in the vestibule of my Starbucks on Diversey in Chicago on a September morning in 1993.

They say that sense is the most powerful of all senses when it comes to triggering memory. A previous experience with scent memory took me back to the time when I was helping my second oldest son begin his freshman year at Purdue. He had been on campus several times over the years and even stayed in the dorms as part of a science camps. But this was different. Today he would begin living on campus. This meant being away from everything that was routine and comfortable.

As we finished up, my son was washing his hands in the dorm bathroom down the hall. I had washed mine just before him. As he took his turn, he said to himself more than to me, “The soap smells the same.” In those few words, I heard the realization in his voice that he was at Purdue now, on his own and living in this dorm. The scent memory from previous times at Purdue had activated in him the understanding that I would be driving back home without him.

Advice is cheap

Yes, I was a barista at one time. It was for four years at Starbucks in Chicago from 1990-1994. That includes a heck of a lot of mornings when I was there to open the store. I had not been back to a Starbucks at opening time until this very morning. It had about 25 years. Starbucks and I have each changed a great deal since we parted ways. Starbucks, the company, has become a world wide success in most every measurable way. If I had stayed employed there, the numbers tell me, I could be pretty well off financially now.

The scent induced memory paralysis kept me standing in the vestibule. I saw my younger self in place of one the three baristas behind the counter. I wanted to shout across the store and tell my younger self to stay in that green apron and one day you will be rich. Induced by scent memory, I had the chance to reclaim the one and only chance in my life I was ever going to have of having a lot of money to my name! I believed I had exorcised this euphorically recalled landscape of my life when I wrote Tripio. Not quite though. Or, I would not have been standing in the vestibule of one of the 25,000 Starbucks on the planet, thinking of yelling advice to my younger self.

Be where your coffee is

Like my son’s experience on college move in day, the scent memory made my years as a young man behind at Starbucks become real. I was back behind that counter tied into the green apron and perhaps checking to see if we had enough flat to-go lids.  Just then the door opened behind me and the scent memory trance was broken. Damn, I was enjoyed the trip back in time. Couldn’t this customer have picked one of the other 24,999 Starbucks? Oh well, I stepped out of his way and back into the present moment.

I had enjoyed my scent memory journey back in time. Luckily, there was a better place for all that recall and it is entitled Tripio. The urge to communicate some of my wisdom to my younger self had passed. Just as well, knowing him, he would not have listened anyway. Which is also just as well. Wisdom can’t be absorbed by the ears. It has to earned by experience, processed by the mind and paid for my one’s emotions. So, my younger self will just have to buy book and see how it ends.


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