The U.S. Government Made Me a Starbucks Addict


Because of the U.S. Federal Government, I am addicted to Starbucks. No, seriously. I totally am. I am a gold card carrying, white mocha drinking, putting some Starbucks’ executive’s kid through college, addict.

I hated coffee as a kid. I remember being around 7 years old, out in the back yard on a hot Long Island summer day. I grabbed my Dad’s soda and took a big swig. Not soda. Iced coffee. I didn’t vomit. Well, maybe a little in my mouth.

Fast-forward 30 years, if you can without blinking really hard and wondering where your life went. I was a contractor supporting the U.S. Department of Something or Other. My department relocated from downtown Washington, D.C. to Arlington, Virginia shortly after I was run over by a bicycle messenger (that’s a story for another time). The new building was a shiny high rise; with a Starbucks two store fronts south of the lobby.

Every afternoon a group of contractors and government staffers would go to Starbucks. Every day they would ask me, and every day I would decline. “I don’t drink coffee.” One day the Unit Chief came to my cubicle as part of this routine. This time, he would not take no for an answer. “Come” he said, “we are going to teach you.” Like a team of G-Men, we stormed the Starbucks.   No, we didn’t. Government employees don’t all look like the Men in Black. We stumbled into the Starbucks looking like there had just been a good sale at Ross. That day, I was introduced to the Frappuccino. A Brownie-Something-or-Other-Crumble-Now-Discontinued-Sin-in-a-Cup.

Okay, I know that a Frappuccino is not really coffee. Take a breath and adjust your caffeine IVs, coffee people. A Frappuccino is espresso, whirled together with a lot of sugar, syrup, milk, and ice. Oh, and whipped cream, and chocolate sauce. Add the brownie chunks (or chocolate chips or whatever food you put in yours), and now we are talking about purified dessert, I get it.

Maybe he bought me a Tall or maybe it was a Grande, I can’t remember. That’s small or medium, for you non-addicts. I remember that first sip more clearly than I remember what I had for breakfast this morning. It was sweet, with a small pinch of bitter, and the brownie chunks got stuck in the straw. It was heaven in a cup.

After the cup was empty and we were back at work, it hit me. My heart fluttered and I started blinking like a humming bird’s wings. I ran around the office like a cockroach jumping back and forth over people’s heads, asking if they wanted to race me around the block. When the clock struck 5, I put my car on my back and ran home. That is the day it all began. Every day I joined them, and after a while I worked myself around the menu to the famed White Mocha. My body and caffeine entered a life long pact. When I started to dream about putting the empty cup on my head and licking it clean, I wondered if there was a 12-step program for people like me.

How do you know when you have become a true Starbucks addict? When you elope in the park next door and go to Starbucks right after. Oh, yes we did. Then we went to work. We went to Starbucks. Who needs a honeymoon after that?

I visited the Starbucks on Union Street in Old Town Alexandria every day for 5 years, sometimes twice. I got to know the employees, and made sure to bring them holiday treats and notes of appreciation. In 2012, my husband and I relocated from Virginia to Florida. I walked to that Starbucks first thing the morning of our move, just like I had for all of those years. I ordered my last White Mocha, said goodbye to all of my baristas and returned home to finish packing the truck. About an hour later my cell phone rang. It was one of the baristas asking me to stop by again before we left town, and so I did. I thought maybe they were going to give me a Mocha for the road, which would have been totally awesome. It was so much better than that! All of the employees had gotten together to write me a beautiful farewell card, and in it was a Starbucks’ gift card for $70 from their pooled personal funds. I was adopted by a Starbucks franchise. Go ahead – be jealous.

Now I am in Florida, making friends with new baristas. I am still more than partial to Starbucks because of the way they are on every street corner like that. But, I have recently learned of a place called Bold Bean. Their espresso is rich and fantastic, but I couldn’t shake feeling like I was cheating on my pimp.

My name is Pookie, and I am a Starbucks addict. And it all started with a Brownie-Something-Frappawappa, a gift from my U.S. Department of Something or Other Unit Chief. Okay all you conspiracy theorists, it was under $5. The United States Office of Government Ethics says it’s okay in section DO-06-023. All right, no they don’t. That section is all about the contractor giving the Unit Chief a Frappuccino, not the other way around. I’m just saying. But I feel it important to let you know: No taxpayer dollars were spent on my first Frappuccino.