Eavesdropping at Starbuck's
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 by Ron Cruger
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          There were three people in line ahead of me at the Starbuck’s store up the street. I’m used to “the look” I get when it’s my turn and the barista asks me for my choice of drink.
          “I’ll have a small decaf coffee, please.”
          That’s when I get the “Decaf, are you nuts,” look.
          By now they should know that I don’t go to Starbuck’s for the three dollar cup of coffee. I don’t even like coffee – that’s why I load the brew with Splenda and cream – anything to disguise the harsh taste of coffee.
          I go to Starbuck’s to watch people, listen and observe.
          After receiving my paper cup of steaming hot decaf coffee and adding the Splenda and cream I headed for a small table towards the front of the store. I opened up my copy of the daily newspaper and prepared to spend a half hour or so drinking, reading, listening and observing.
          A minute or two into my quiet time the screeching of chairs being dragged across the tile floor abruptly caught my attention.
          The table next to mine was being filled with the bodies of three guys. One, a younger man in his middle twenties, wearing a black T-shirt, jeans and well-worn sneakers. Next to him sat a middle aged man in a plaid shirt and tan slacks. The third, a tall, thin man, in his late forties, wearing a yellow golf shirt, pressed black jeans and a stylish mustache.
          I sipped my sweetened decaf, read the front page of my newspaper and then heard the younger man in the table next to me say, “Did you guys get your six hundred dollar check from Bush yet?”
          The middle aged man shook his head and said, “Haven’t got mine yet,” then nodded to the taller man to his right, “You got yours?”
          “Nope, but I’m in no hurry. Has to be the dumbest idea a president ever had, writing a check to almost all Americans. Where is all that money coming from? Are we going to get a check like this every time the economy goes south? And, by the way, was this left over money or are we going to pay for this one way or another later, like with increased taxes?”
          This was getting interesting, so I turned the newspaper pages as though I was reading them, but my attention was focused on the table next to me and the three guys. I knew I was eavesdropping – and enjoying it. It was interesting.
          The younger guy in the black T-shirt offered, “Look, if we can afford the war in Iraq we can afford something for all of us Americans.”
          Younger man continued, “That war in Iraq, besides being a terrible idea is breaking us. Do you know that it’s costing us over two billion dollars a month.”
          Tall guy put his cup down, looked at younger guy, “It may be costing us a lot, but our soldiers are protecting us. They’re keeping the fundamentalists from attacking us right here in the U.S. You guys just don’t understand what President Bush is trying to do. He’s doing the right thing by fighting those terrorists on their territory rather than on ours.”
          “Do you really believe that? Don’t you know that this whole war is about oil,” said middle aged guy.
          “You know how important oil is to us. You should be glad that our army is over there, protecting our interests in the oil. I get tired of you guys always bitching about the war in Iraq. Americans should be thanking our president for having the guts to fight in Iraq, rather than always criticizing him,” continued middle aged man.
          Young guy put another spoonful of sugar in his coffee and then asked, “Hold it, you guys. Let me ask you this, “Who do you think will be our next president, McCain, Obama or Hillary?
          “Middle aged man cut in, “What are you talking about? Hillary should never be our president. If she is then it means that Bill is really our president, doesn’t it! That Obama guy can’t be president. Have you heard what his own pastor said about their beliefs? This country would be in trouble if that Obama wins.” Neither one of those two can win. McCain is going to win easily. He’s the only one who can continue to protect our country and keep us free.”
          Young guy added, “Hold it. I can’t believe that McCain and Hillary both want to eliminate the gasoline tax during the summer. The experts have figured out that all it would mean to the average American driver is like thirty dollars. Big deal. It’s a bad idea. They’re just looking for votes. It’s baloney. They should both be spending their time figuring out ways that we’re not so dependent on oil from the Middle East, you know, like wind and solar energy. Only Obama said no to the gas tax idea. He’s the only one with common sense that won’t sell out for a few votes.”
          “You know what will happen if Hillary or Obama get elected? They’ll pull out troops out of Iraq and Afghanistan and the terrorists will have a field day. They’ll get strong and confident and maybe even attack us here in America. Only McCain has the guts to keep us fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. Like he said, it may take us one hundred years, but we will stay in Iraq.” added Middle aged man.
          Young guy slightly raised his voice and said, “A hundred years! That’s all we need. To be in an endless war against millions of people who hate us. We have other problems that need to be solved. We have giant immigration problems. We have gasoline prices passing four dollars a gallon, we are hated around the world. Chinese dollars are helping to keep our government afloat. With all these problems we have a president without a vision to correct them and you want to replace him with someone who thinks like him - only McCain is so old I worry about him – and us. Get real. Only Obama can think of new and creative solutions to our giant problems.”
          Tall guy took one last swig of his coffee and said, “Why do you guys think so lowly of President Bush? He’s prevented any further terrorist attacks in our country. You should be more respectful of the president.”
          “Please, it’s hard to respect the guy. He’s obviously not the brightest bulb in the lamp. He’s gotten us into a phony war, there’s no end in sight. Our economy is sliding downhill, gasoline is as expensive as gold, we are deeply indebted to China, we have no energy plan and unemployment is growing, added young guy.
          A brief moment of silence emerged at their table. The three guys finished the last drops of their coffee and stood up. The sound of their chairs sliding on the tile screeched again. Tall guy patted middle aged guy on the back as younger guy held the door open and the three walked out of Starbuck’s.
          I was so interested in the eavesdropping that my decaf had gotten cold sitting in my cup.
          I poured the cup and its contents into the trash can, folded my newspaper, put it under my arm and walked out the front door thinking, “I’m more confused than ever. I still don’t know who to vote for.”
          I wonder how many Americans have made up their minds.