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Friday, April 25, 2014
The strong drive for solidarity and kindness is alive and well at Starbucks.
By Richard Mellor
Afscme Local 444, retired
I'm traveling at the moment and I have to say, I love to write when I travel because I find myself in a new environment surrounded by people I don't know and it never fails to boost my morale, strengthen my belief in the strong drive of of human beings towards solidarity and a collective existence. We are, after all, collective creatures. That we exist in a alienating social system that promotes individual selfishness and greed does not eliminate this strong drive toward unity and solidarity
I am in a Starbucks in the Pacific Northeast at the moment. I have to be somewhere else in an hour and needed a coffee to perk me up a bit. I walked up to the counter and ordered, yes, it's no lie, a non fat latte.
"What size?" the 30-ish woman behind the counter asks me with a smile.
Given that Starbucks has altered the conventional definition of what size is with regard to drinking vessels I couldn't answer that so she proceeded to show me the objects so I could pick one out.
It turns out I chose a "Grande".
Then she asks me about my accent. I always maintain that English speaking immigrants to the US maintain their accents for a long time for primarily two reasons. One is that we already speak English so we understand them and don't have to learn a new language, and the other is that one almost always gets a positive response to it. I've never been told to "Fuck off back to England". One time on a picket line some woman crossing it with her car referred to my accent not being "American". All the Filipinos and black folks on the line with me liked that one and came to my defense. So it's like natural selection I reckon; I do not face the racism others might at times.
Anyway, We have a back and forth this woman and I and she guessed my accent right then she said she had friends in Scotland that spoke like me which I said was highly unlikely unless they were transplants.
So we talked and she was an interesting, bright character. Every worker there was a woman except for one man and she was clearly looked upon with respect by the other workers, it was not hard to see that. There were some very young ones there looked like mid to late teens. I mentioned that Scotland was voting on breaking from the centuries old union with Britain and she didn't think that was a good idea.
I went and sat where I am now and about 15 minutes later her shift was over and she was about to leave. I had given her my card to this blog and on the way out she was on the other side of the counter talking to her co-workers. I went over and encouraged her to read stuff on this blog that might interest her. She said that she was a writer too and would definitely check it out.
As she was leaving she turned to her co-workers and waved:
"See you later, love you." she said to her co-workers as she was heading out, adding "If anyone needs a ride home give me a call."
It reminded me of work. We spend more time with the people we work with and in stressful situations normally, than we do with family some times. One thing I miss about work is the camaraderie, the bond we have with each other. The workplace banter and humor is what keeps us going. Every day we cooperate with each other through the process of work, the process through which capitalists make profit. The head of Starbucks earns some $9000 an hour and it all comes from the folks here today and others like them.
Before she went I urged her to check out this blog and if she wanted to write something send it in. I said that it is a socialist blog but anything about working class life and social issues is valuable.
"We're just not interested in the super rich unless its about how they fuck people over and what we can do about it" I added.
"I'm on board with that" she replied with a smile.