I’m in Starbucks the other day, getting my morning coffee fix. The kid behind the counter is super friendly. She apparently hasn’t been in the business long and doesn’t understand that you should never try to socially engage a devoted coffee drinker before they’ve had their first cup. I decide to give her a pass and be friendly back.
“How’s your day going so far?” she asks as she takes my card.
They always ask that question. Must be a corporate directive. I fake a smile.
“Just trying to wake up.”
“I hear ya!”
Her perkiness is irritating, but I know it doesn’t come from anyplace hostile. I’ll grin and bear it. Later, when I’m awake, I will appreciate her friendliness. She runs my card and hands it back to me.
“Just heading to work?” she asks, hell-bent on conversation.
“No. Yeah. Sort of. I’m self-employed.”
“Really?” Her eyes light up like I just told her I have a super power. “What do you do?”
“I’m a writer.”
“Oh, wow! Do you make a living doing that?”
“That’s awesome! Who do you write for?”
At this point I just want my coffee. But since she’s the one ringing the sale and not the one spinning that glorious concoction into being, I decide to remain patient.
“Oh, a handful of clients. Marketing companies and stuff.” I know I should stop there, but I don’t. Why should I? I’m proud of it. “I’m actually working on a book.”
“Way cool! What’s it about?”
I struggle for the best way to describe it. Finally, I opt for the most direct route. “It’s a sequel to The Falcon and the Snowman.”
“You know, Christopher Boyce and Andrew Daulton Lee. It was a book first. Then a movie. Starring Timothy Hutton.”
Still no response. Just confused blinks.
“Pat Metheny did the soundtrack.”
Nada. I should have known better than to try that angle. Now I’m starting to get agitated.
“It’s a true story about a couple of guys who sold government secrets to the KGB.”
Oh my God.
Now I’m determined. I go for the name I’m certain will elicit a response in those “nobody’s home” eyes.
“Sean Penn was in it.”
Still nothing. My face falls. I rummage around my brain for the title of a movie he’s been in lately that’ll jostle her memory, but come up empty.
In a last ditch effort, I throw in: “He was married to Madonna.”
Finally! A spark of recognition. I want to throw up my arms in victory. The moment is short-lived.
“So… your book’s about her?”
The barista calls my name to tell me that my macchiato is ready. I ignore him.
“It’s about these two guys who went to prison in the 70s. The guy I’m writing the book with spent 25 years behind bars. It’s about his experiences.”
“Oh! What did he do?”
“Espionage.” Before she can disappoint me again, I add: “It’s a pretty serious crime, but it’s not murder. I mean, it’s nothing like what Charles Manson did.”
I turn away despondently and lock eyes with the barista boy. He sets my coffee down on the counter between us. He’s got the same lost look on his face that the girl does.
“That’s the one guy from the Beatles, right?”
I pick up my coffee and leave. Next time, I’m making Maxwell House.
Vince Font is the co-author and publisher of the book American Sons: The Untold Story of the Falcon and the Snowman, available now from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, IndieBound, and elsewhere. He is also the founder of Glass Spider Publishing, an independent publisher located in Ogden, Utah.