Starbucks and the Homeless

Starbucks and the Homeless

Starbucks was my last errand. I left my condo to quickly grab two things: ground beef and a bottle of Starbucks blonde roast iced coffee. The ground beef was for the baked ziti I planned to cook and the iced coffee, specifically the blonde roast, was for the remaining mornings of the week. I couldn’t find it at the three different groceries stores I stopped in and figured maybe an actual Starbucks would have.


When I pulled up to the parking lot, a homeless man was laying in the shade against the building. I locked my Benz twice while walking towards him and the entrance. His long brownish-black and grey dreads hung over his beat down windbreaker. The faded green cargo pants he wore seemed like they used to carry a man twenty pounds fuller. I gazed at the blue crocs covering his Black feet. Blue crocs on dry Black feet while lying peacefully on the shaded concrete beside a bougie coffee shop? I had so many questions I almost forgot what errand I was now on.  


When I got closer he looked up at me. “Chicken sandwich,” he said abruptly. His request sputtered out drenched with flem. “Huh?” I inadvertently offered. “Chicken sandwich,” he repeated, this time more clear. His look reminded me of a person I loved. His dark, tethered facial features and missing teeth prompted mental images of my dad, laying on the couch in the living room late at night, letting movies watch him. For a second I thought about pausing, asking him questions that started with how and when. Instead I said, “I got you.”


Inside the Starbucks I waited in the socially distanced line. I studied the cold sandwiches displayed on the shelves in front of the cash register. They all looked bready as fuck. I picked one up that had the word chicken sandwiched in between four other fancy-ass sounding words. I remembered to look for the bottle of iced coffee, blonde roast, that I left home to buy. Of course they didn’t sell it at a fucking Starbucks. What was I thinking? I figured the least I could do was order a grande or picante or medium blonde roast iced coffee when I got to the cashier or bartender or barista.


The sandwich in my hand looked better than decent but I remembered that I was buying it for a stranger and also that a Tim Hortons was a sixty foot walk back across the parking lot. Spending nine bucks for a sandwich for a man that I would never see again seemed fiscally irresponsible. But walking back outside and across the parking lot empty handed while telling a man that I was going to get him a chicken sandwich from Tim Hortons’ instead because it was cheaper seemed straight up rude. I stayed in line and silently worked on how I would ask for my medium Starbucks blonde roast iced coffee.


I left Starbucks with the homeless man’s sandwich and a version of the iced coffee that I liked to drink, wondering if I closed my sunroof, also wondering if he’d still be there. I wondered about the patterns of homeless Black men. Do they move around? How do they pick who they ask for things like chicken sandwiches? How do they know where to settle for a few hours and relax? Why do I feel so sorry for them and think that any of us could have ended up that way? 


He sat up when he noticed me. “I got them to warm it up for you,” I said while handing him his nine dollar sandwich. He said thank you with his eyes and a nod. I kept walking back to my Benz. “Make sure you drink some water too,” I said, repeating the same things I told my dad every time I closed the door behind me after visiting him.


The drive back to my condo took four minutes. After two stop lights I wondered if the ground beef that was sitting on my passenger seat was getting too warm and too spoiled to use to cook a baked ziti in my slow cooker. Inside my condo my stomach told me that I was also hungry. Upset now. Upset that I didn’t buy two of those bready-ass but decent enough looking chicken sandwiches from Starbucks instead of now heating up some pizza pockets in my microwave. Trying to reason why I should feel grateful for being able to leave home for food and drink and come back home in the first place.  



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Matthew R. Morris

Educator, Speaker, Writer

Matthew R. Morris is a writer, speaker, and elementary educator in Toronto. He has an M.A. in Social Justice Education from OISE at the University of Toronto and is the author of the forthcoming book, Black Boys Like Me. 

Matthew R. Morris

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