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The Starbucks Effect

(Writings from a particularly gray Wednesday)

The Starbucks Effect: (noun)

The phenomena of seeing someone that you know or knew, no matter how many degrees of separation, unexpectedly in a mundane location. It’s overwhelming to process the passage of time or changing of circumstance (or even just shock of appearance), so you both share a glance but no signal of true recognition, letting the moment pass by.


Her name is Samantha. I remember it because I had a favorite doll named Samantha, the most regal and feminine name imaginable to a mature seven year old (gone was the naive age five when I believed Lisa to be the most extraordinary name). When I saw her today  at a Starbucks five years after my high school graduation, I didn’t see her as the girl I had known in high school, who was too dorky for the burn-outs but too edgy for the color guard, but rather the elementary school friend who I had once adored. We rode together on the bus. She was tall and big but I had always thought she was beautiful and commanded attention. I played family and princess and fame with her, and we read together, and spied on her dangerously cool older brother, and made horrible crafts. One time, her terrifying pitbull chased me across her farm and once she told me she had seen her grandfather’s ghost. I didn’t believe her and that was probably the tearing of the fabric of our young friendship.

In that quick synapse that I recognized her in the coffee shop, I was flooded by how much I had once treasured that friendship with the tenacity only a little child could muster, and yet now we are strangers. What college relationship did I have now that would diminish into this in a few years? Do we struggle to hold on to them- to keep the raw affection and intimacy that exists now (perhaps only because of the physical closeness and nothing more)- or do we simply enjoy them for what they are and allow them to pass by as we wave appreciatively with memories in our movement?

I sip on my latte, feeling ridiculously melodramatic.

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