Updated October 15, 2004

October 15

Having accepted a job in Maryland and planning to leave on Saturday, I debated whether or not to visit the final new Starbucks in the Houston area, out in Baytown, because of the gas expense. Money would be tight until I received my first paycheck, two weeks after my first day, and five bucks gas could make a difference down the line. The deciding factor was that I had my transmission replaced and I wanted to drive the car as much as possible, so I decided a trip out to Baytown and back should give me an idea that the car was really fixed or not.

I was glad I went, because I received a very warm reception. The assistant manager had not heard of my project, but several of the other baristas had, and they came streaming out of the back room (kind of) when they heard I was there. All of them female, and all of them cute. Especially the last one, who seemed so impressed to finally meet me that I regretted not being able to hang out in the store. Now that's what I'm taking about.

I almost wasted the trip, however, because I forgot the bring the batteries I had just recharged the night before. Thankfully, I had three AA batteries inside my Scrabble timer, and those plus one of the "dead" ones allowed me to snap one photo, and then another of the dead ones I snapped a couple more. I'd have to return anyway, because I wanted to get a photo of the store in subdued evening lighting at some point in the future.

October 9th

Okay, this is too funny. I'm was sitting there at my usual Starbucks, playing Scrabble to distract me from the depravitational pull of the strip club down the street, when a pair of students sat at the table I shared with some moderately muscled guy who touted the value of Pilates. When one of the ladies mentioned that a forthcoming third student would need extra space because she was a "big girl", the guy make a few disparaging remarks along the lines of "maybe she needs two seats like on airline flights." I would have expected the ladies to write this guy off immediately, yet when it slipped out that he was single, one of the ladies immediately set out to set him up with her sister, a fifty-year-old divorcee/widow with two kids. While I sat there she asked for his contact info, what was doing later that night, then called her sister up, feverishly playing matchmaker. I thought the guy was a bit of a jerk myself, and I later considered the possibility that the lady actually hated her sister. But most people don't think up devious schemes like that, and the truth is probably simpler, that good-looking guys can get away with being jerks while plain-Jane schlubs like me can't win for losing.

September 29

Intrigue in H-Town as I happened to discover two more hidden stores. I just happened to stop at the Fountainview store on Wednesday afternoon for coffee. The barista just happened to be wearing a "Team Dulles" cap, and I asked her if she had worked down in the Fort Bend area. She had, and then I commented that there hadn't been any new stores to open recently. She mentioned a new one in the Marriott, and I immediately said it was fake. She replied that no, it was real. I asked her if she was sure, and she said she was.

Upon leaving I immediately called a store in Missouri City and was able to get a number for the new store. The barista confirmed that the store was indeed company-owned and also revealed another new store further down the freeway, someplace called Greatwood. My suspicions of a conspiracy to keep me from my goal were rearoused.

On Thursday morning I headed down there and found the store, not a kiosk, but in a corner of the building next to the Marriott. The manager (shift supervisor maybe) had not heard of me, but a partner had. She mentioned the donation link to my web site, and I, curious to see if she had donated, asked her. She said he had, but when Iooked at my list I couldn't find the name. I didn't say anything else.

Later that night, I went downtown to see Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence with the full intention of spending the night near the store in Baytown that was to open at 5:30 the next morning. But during slow parts of the film, I started thinking about the gas and wear on my troubled car, and I decided that

September 25

I finally visited the first UCO store in Houston on the way to a Scrabble tournament in Lafayette, LA. Thankfully I had a drink coupon, one I'd never seen before, specifically for a tall drip coffee, because business to brisk to ask for complimentary coffee, and the line was moving slowly, at least according to a lady who almost whimpered as she pleaded "Is it going to be ready anytime soon. Before I'm late?" Lady, if you're running late, just order drip coffee!

Monkey widgets! I called the Lake Charles store to see if anything had opened in Lafayette, and the first store was set to open in a week! What cruel timing!

September 24

And still he kept talking.

I was hanging out at my usual Starbucks in Houston when the young man next to me, dressed in a shirt and tie, leaned over to the student across from me and commented about some Latino group in the area. I noticed the line at the register had subsided, so I went up for my coffee. Next thing I knew, the red-haired barista was next to me. I felt a flutter in my stomach and then decided to say hello. She responded, but I still have no idea if she knows who I am.

Back at the table, the man continued to talk to the student as it became clear that she wanted to study. In fact, he said he could leave her alone because he could tell she was trying to study. And then he proceeded to lean over multiple times and continue to talk. My, my, my.

Later, he leaned over the divider to see what it was some group of girls were doing that was causing such a racket. I don't think he was so much bothered by the racket as just bored, or looking for company, or something.

September 23

I finished up the programming required to place an link for a web site advertising hotels on each of my state pages. This was a great deal for me, because not only was I being paid way more than the ads I was already hosting, but the company pre-paid six months in advance! Given my unemployed state and the problems with my transmission, that money couldn't arrive soon enough for my comfort.

September 17

I found another stack of mail accumulated from my trip, and it included a package with a whopping twelve copies of the Washington Post Magazine article! I wondered if I could sell off autographed copies.

Later, at Starbucks, I received an e-mail about a documentary. Hm...

Another e-mail, this time from a girl in the midwest who recommended if I got my ear pierced I'd look "sexy". I thanked her and told her I didn't have time for things like that because I'm so focused on my goals.

Meanwhile, while hanging out at my usual Starbucks in Houston, I noticed quite a few new barista faces. But drive-thru girl was still there. She's a cute little red-headed thing that has worked drive-thru, seemingly exclusively, for years. Because I've only seen here working the inside registers once in all the times I've gone there, I have never had a chance to find out anything about her. I don't even know her name. That makes her mysterious, kind of like the little red-haired girl that Charlie Brown was infatuated with. But was she mysterious in the Peanuts strip. I think so, because I don't think we ever got to actually see her for years and years.

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