A tall guy appears. He puts one shaky hand on the door handle and pulls back swiftly, once, twice more.

He tries again, and when it refuses to respond, he taps on the glass lightly, then pounds harder, and finally cups both hands to his temples and peers through the glass.

This latest patron stands motionless for a minute, before walking away. But after a few steps he turns to look back as if the universe will intervene, and someone — a smiling barista perhaps — will suddenly fling the door open and shout, “Come back, we love you still!”

But that won’t happen. Many rebuffed lovers will show up each day and play out the same scene.

Mesmerized by this social drama, I sit in front of Starbucks this day and many more, and watch.

Students from Colby, fresh out of class, pull up and try the doors. Bewildered and confused, they walk away as one hurls the F-word over her shoulder.

Starbucks — the iconic provider of lattes, mochas, pumpkin spice, teas and pastries through summer’s heat and winters’ unforgiving winds — is dark.

Say it ain’t so.

It ain’t so. Management just adjusted their hours and closed the doors at 2:30 p.m., like dozens of other shops, due to the lack of fresh help, even though “Help Wanted” signs blanket the Elm City like ice in January.

Inside the perfumed halls of our local Starbucks, manager Lisa Marie Boissonneault, stands in the shadows, weary of waving away the thirsty addicts who keep coming.

Boissonneault has posted notices on the door and windows, and finally, simply dimmed the lights and pulled the blinds while she waited for reinforcements.

She isn’t giving up. She continues to take applications, fold fresh green aprons, unpack holiday boxes and pray for reinforcements.

Still, the voyeur in me can’t resist this comic opera of pilgrims in search of the Holy Cup.

I come here daily, you see, to draw on the human comedy, get a hot chocolate and oatmeal and spend a quiet hour looking for stuff to provide batter for my weekly cake.

Then this happened. First the tall guy, then a couple of students.

As I sat there, the parking lot filled up like a mafia wedding with license plates from Nebraska, Vermont, Massachusetts.

It started weeks ago when the hammer first fell.

As I sat then, at one of the tables, I took to stopping folks as they got out of their cars and approached the cafe. “It’s closed,” I’d shout.

“Closed?”

“Yes, closed.”

“Starbucks is closed?”

You would think I had told them that the Vatican had canceled Christmas.

“Each day at 2:30,” I shouted.

“2:30?”

“2:30.”

“Is it a COVID thing?

“No, it’s not a COVID thing.”

Breaking news: The crisis has eased. Closing time is now 4:30 in the afternoon.

So, if you want your coffee, c’mon up. It ain’t a COVID thing.

J.P. Devine is a Waterville writer. 


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