Farewell Duq: My last trip to Starbucks

Courtesy Mercedes Williams.

Merecedes Williams | staff columnist

Dec. 2, 2021

There’s no sweet aroma of baked goods or pungent smells of brewing coffee, but the Starbucks on Duquesne University’s campus draws the most exhausting line. The line represents a multitude of things.

For me, my presence in the line everyday Monday through Thursday is a privilege. That line represents the courage to go back to school at 33 years old, the fear of walking around campus in person for the first time since May 2010, and the audacity to see this undergraduate journey until the end. It is all a privilege.

Not to be taken for granted, the Starbucks is more than just your local college coffee den. It is a place of refuge when the school day is complete, a comfort between classes and a melting pot for people who would not typically cross paths.

Graduation is days away and I’m wondering what that last trip to the campus Starbucks will look like.

I assume it will look like my other 64 trips.

I get the usual—a small cappuccino with six white sugars and a trenta mango dragon fruit lemonade with 14 pumps of classic syrup.

(I know that’s a lot of sugar for one sitting, but it’s my fuel for the day.)

The routine is so predictable that the barista with dreadlocks and the welcoming smile proceeds to write

“Mercedes” on the cup before I finish my order. I can expect for my name to be spelled wrong every time, but his intentions outweigh the misspelling.

Ironically, I don’t know his name because he refuses to wear his name tag.

His dark tinted prescription glasses tell me that he’s nobody to play with. So, that makes me that much more inquisitive. I want to know why he’s so rebellious on this Catholic campus. But then I remember how I have always felt so out of place here, and quickly sympathize with his mutiny.

That’s right, no-name barista! You don’t have to wear that name tag.

He is consistent, too. He never misses a day of work. My order is always correct. Most importantly, I feel like he sees me. Being noticed is so important in a sea of thousands of students. When it feels like Duquesne is passing the buck or running a graduation factory, it feels good to be recognized by the local barista.

Maybe on my last trip I will muster up the courage to ask him his name and thank him for the friendly daily banter. Maybe I’ll tip him, not too much because I’m still a college student but not too little because I don’t want to offend him.

When I am walking across the stage on Dec. 17, 2021, teetering the fence about dropping a class, dominating the group projects and stressing over final exams will be the last of my worries. My reflections will be positive—my trip to Slippery Rock University with Dr. Rahmon Hart and the Black Student Union in 2007, getting Father Hogan to chuckle as I beg for more tuition money, and running into my favorite barista at the Starbucks in the Duquesne Union.

My last trip to Starbucks will be a hard one, marking the end of an era. I’d like to believe I left an impression, too.

That Starbucks will never experience the loud-mouthed Black girl from the Hill District who orders the hot and cold beverages with way too much sugar.

It will probably be the best last trip ever.