Monday, April 9, 2007

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Open Starbucks overheard conversation thread

Virginia Postrel relates a conversation she head while at a Los Angeles Starbucks: "Two screenwriters working over a script that features both the CIA and some kind of evil mercenary hired by...a pharmaceutical company."

For some reason, the Starbucks I occasionally frequent here in the Boston area has much stranger conversations than the Hyde Park Starbucks. In the fall, I overheard two IT consultants bemoaning the fact that some outfit in Sudan (???!!!) was getting a whole bunch of World Bank money that allowed them to be competitive in some niche market. I have no idea if this was true or not, but it safely distracted me from work for twenty minutes.

Here's a good Monday question for readers -- what was the strangest conversation you have overheard in a coffee house?

posted by Dan on 04.09.07 at 08:03 AM


Which Starbucks, Dan?

I hope you're not visiting the Davis Sq Starbucks when you have the much better option of Diesel across the street or Someday Cafe up the block. Much higher likelihood of strange conversation than Starbucks.

posted by: AnIRprof on 04.09.07 at 08:03 AM [permalink]

Someday is, unfortunately, no longer for this world - their lease expired in the fall and they have been replaced by Mr. Crepe. With Denise's ice cream departing as well, Davis Square is really changing...

posted by: Luther Vandross on 04.09.07 at 08:03 AM [permalink]

Whatever Dan! Come back to Avon and hit up Brueggers! They just came out with this new French Toast Roast. INSANE! However, don't count on too much interesting conversation inside. Tid bits might include: "I think I'm gonna get the new S-Class" or "Ahhh this is the dream!"

posted by: Josh on 04.09.07 at 08:03 AM [permalink]

Someday replaced by Mr. Crepe (the same place that used to be on Holland St)? And Starbucks is still going strong? Even in Davis Sq, bland store, bad coffee, and brand marketing wins out? Sad, though I admit I rarely went to Someday after Diesel stood up, but they sure beat Starbucks.

I do have a soft spot for them since Someday was a real breath of fresh air back when food in Davis Sq meant Mike's, one of the awful Chinese take-outs, or the never-quite-clean-looking Dunkin Donuts on Elm. Was great for a few years, but I knew it was time to leave when the gentrified the Sligo Pub.

posted by: AnIRprof on 04.09.07 at 08:03 AM [permalink]

One similar overheard in Diesel (A non-Starbucks hold-out in Somerville): Two guys working on a screenplay, obviously very nascent stages, trying to get characters from one situation to another and drawing straws regarding the characters' personal history - something like:

Guy 1: "Ok, and she can't stay away from her hometown because she was...she was..."

Guy 2: "A victim of incest?"

Guy 1: "Yes! A victim of incest..."

Went like that, or even more ridiculous at times, for a couple hours.

Another strange one was two people talking about Ethiopia at Tryst (in DC) and sounding like they had spent a lot of time there. Having lived and worked there for a while I started chatting them up, turns out one of them started an NGO I had worked for...which was when I realized that he was the guy everyone at the NGO talked about who was um, well, not so nice, and was eventually kicked out of the country. He gave me a crumpled business card to prove his credentials w/ the NGO - it was at least 8 years old.

posted by: Drew on 04.09.07 at 08:03 AM [permalink]

The strangest conversations I ever heard at Starbucks I was also a party to. They derived from my experience at the Starbucks on King Street in Alexandria, VA in the early 1990s, back before Starbucks became a global corporate behemoth.

The King Street Starbucks used to sell crystallized ginger, which I happen to like with strong black coffee. For years afterward I would in the course of my business travels inquire of Starbucks baristas whether or not they had any crystallized ginger. It's the closest I've ever come to feeling the way a man from Mars might if he materialized on some small town's main street.

Clearly, Starbucks made a decision at the corporate level some time ago that coffee and crystallized ginger no more belonged together than peanut butter and red wine, and so programmed all of their employees. Costing itself a pretty big market, incidentally, and its chance to get in on the next big trend in coffee-related marketing.

posted by: Zathras on 04.09.07 at 08:03 AM [permalink]

It seems as though frequenting a place only occasionally must require exquisitely nice judgment. How do you do it?

posted by: Bob McHenry on 04.09.07 at 08:03 AM [permalink]

Overheard at GAO in Feb 1986, just after the Challenger disaster: "Couldn't they read between the lines? We knew one of the problems was with the O-rings!"

posted by: Mary on 04.09.07 at 08:03 AM [permalink]

At the Seattle's Best (now Starbuck's) at Chicago and Rush St in 2003.

One guy to the other looking out the window at the set of three story buildings across Chicago Ave: "I don't know what we might face when we bring those buildings down."

Kind of freaked me out, turns out it was a poorly-phrased way of talking about how they were going to face issues when they tear down the block and build a 30 story condo.

posted by: Kevin on 04.09.07 at 08:03 AM [permalink]

On a New Jersey Transit train a few months ago, I overheard a one-sided phone conversation about wearing a wire, trying to make somebody say somethign about the company, and putting a company through bankruptcy. The guy didn't realize it, but the whole train got very quiet as everybody was listening.

posted by: CrudeBoy on 04.09.07 at 08:03 AM [permalink]

Although not, strictly speaking, a conversation, I have started thinking of one of the St*****ks in my area as the "crying Stbks", because over the last few months, there have been several instances where I have seen people weeping. Always someone different, no pattern in age or sex (yes, it has sometimes been men weeping in public) Never alone, with someone else (spouse? friend?) consoling. Always in the same corner table. I have postulated that there was maybe a doctor's office nearby where people get bad news, or a lawyer's office. It is beginning to creep me out.

posted by: Imethisguy on 04.09.07 at 08:03 AM [permalink]

Two Pro Doms comparing notes on what customers did and didn't like.

There are a _bunch_ of wierdos in this town.

posted by: rosignol on 04.09.07 at 08:03 AM [permalink]

In a London Starbucks, near to Borough market, I overheard a guy making an impassioned argument in favour of yahoo over google. He was convinced that Yahoo would prove the greater success in the long-term.

posted by: Andrew on 04.09.07 at 08:03 AM [permalink]

Summer 1993, at the Dunkin Donuts on 53rd Street in Hyde Park, sat next to two men, probably in their late 60's. One was lecturing the other on how he would spend his retirement on Mars and achieve immortality.

posted by: KXB on 04.09.07 at 08:03 AM [permalink]

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