Washington, DC is positively filled with truly great coffee shops, but sometimes, you just need to hit a Starbucks: maybe you're drawn by the siren song of guaranteed, consistently working free Wi-Fi, or just the comfort of a consistent morning brew. If you're a transplant (hi, pretty much everyone in DC), being able to get the exact same latte as you did back home can be super comforting, after all. In fact, the consistency of a Grande Hazelnut Frappuccino at every Starbucks in the US can only be matched by the regularity of the characters you see inside: walk into any of the chain's many spots in the district right now, and there’s a good chance that you’ll spy one of these regulars...
The Pack of Tourists
Getting stuck in line behind a family who’s visiting DC for the very first time is every commuter’s nightmare, and in this city, you tend to live the nightmare more frequently than the poor schmucks out on Elm St in Springwood, Ohio.
Fanny Pack Dad is neglecting to yell at Overstimulated Child -- who is about to topple a large, perilously fragile display of porcelain Starbucks coffee mugs -- while Tourist Mom is asking the cashier why, exactly, her macchiato is so much more expensive here than at home, where the Washington Monument is, can you walk there, and if it’s worth it. You will not be getting to work on time.
The Overprivileged Child of Wealthy DC Parents
This kid shows up on his fixed-gear bike, but the keys to his parents’ Beemer are jangling in his pocket. He is almost certainly a white person with dreadlocks, so thoroughly convinced of his bohemian nature that he will -- with an entirely straight face -- introduce himself as an emerging performance artist in the DC arts scene. He is a graduate of St. Alban's, currently taking a "gap year" to explore his artistic interests (read: watching Netflix in his pajamas until 1 p.m.). He takes his order extra hot, just to feel alive, man.
Secretly (OK, maybe not-so-secretly) we all want to be the retiree. You know the one: she swings into Starbucks at about 10:30am and posts up at the big table next to all the power outlets, even though she has brought nothing that requires plugging in. As she sips her earl grey tea and nibbles her Bountiful Berry muffin, she looks terrifically, enviably relaxed. You just know she is on the board of The Humane Society or some other super amazing charity. She casually thumbs through the Washington Post. Sometimes a friend drops by. This is her life.
The Clearly Hungover Dude
The bro behind you may be trying to hide his bloodshot eyes behind a pair of Ray-Bans, but he can’t conceal the fact that he smells like $1 Miller Light drafts... apparently it was wild time at Madhatter last night. He manages to mumble out his order for a double venti Americano, but when he goes to pick up the scalding cup of coffee from the bar, he trips, and his morning salvation is now naught but a puddle on the floor. Oh, Clearly Hungover Dude. Just skip today -- nobody wants you to come into work right now.
There’s a big meeting at the firm around 9:30am, and the morning line is being held up by The Intern, who orders carafe-loads of coffee while checking her Blackberry and nervously pulling her ponytail. If you had any hope of ordering a scone, better luck next time: The Intern got the go-ahead to put all the pastries in the case on the company card.
This guy doesn’t even need to state his order. By the time he walks in the door -- at 8:35 every blessed morning -- the barista has already started making his triple grande skinny hazelnut latte. The Regular then whips out his smartphone, opens a Starbucks gold card on the Starbucks app (natch), and exits moments later, frothy latte in hand.
Yoga Pants is only sometimes on her way to Tranquil Space, but she is perpetually plugged into her iPhone, blissfully unaware when the Starbucks barista yells, “Next!” When Yoga Pants finally hears her cue, she saunters over to the counter, smiles her faux-namaste smile, removes only one earbud, and orders a grande skinny soy chai faster than she can downward dog.
Suit: check. Laptop case: check. Look of wild thirst in his eyes: check. The Networker is not here for the coffee -- that’s why he ordered a tall dark roast, which he completely ignores. Nope, as The Networker scans the room like a meerkat seeking both predators and prey, it’s obvious that he’s just here to meet another suit -- one who hopefully has a job lead this time.
The Dude Who’s “Working From Home”
This guy showed up unshaven -- not sexy-scruff Brad Pitt unshaven, just utter carelessness unshaven -- and in sweatpants. Although he looks dressed for comfort, he’s clearly engaged in an uphill battle with a 5pm deadline. As he pecks away on his laptop, his hand hovers absently above the empty paper coffee cup -- time for another refill (his third of the day).
Come exam week, every Starbucks within a ten-block radius of the nineteen colleges in this town is filled with more anxiety than a slaughterhouse, and it’s all emanating from The Undergrad, or more accurately, The Undergrads: every single table has been invaded by a kid with a MacBook. While The Undergrads might look different from each other, their behavior is eerily identical: the stress of finals has each of them freaking out hard, and none of them will be giving up their coveted spot in the Starbucks anytime soon.
Stroller Dad is genuinely in need of caffeine. He’s ordering a venti red eye because his kid -- now peacefully asleep in his stroller -- decided that 4am is the new 9am. Stroller Dad would be stoked if his kid were a little less of a trendsetter that way. Stroller Dad is thinks it might be time to move to Northern Virginia. He is unaware that there’s a receipt from Beefsteak stuck to the bottom of his shoe.
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Tim Ebner likes to use the free WiFi at Starbucks to write Thrillist articles about the people you typically see in Starbucks. He writes about food, travel, and lifestyle features. Follow him on Twitter @TimEbner.