At the nearby Starbucks, across from the middle school, at certain times of the day - every morning before class and when school is out in the afternoon - the lines of young people waiting to order coffee are out the door.
Backpacks on and cell phones engaged, clumps of them are pushing and joking around and ordering like world-weary veterans of coffee houses. Some of these kids are small - as is often the case in middle school where that first year it’s tough to tell the 8th graders from the fifth and sixth graders they recently were. They grow at different rates, so we have some girls dressed like The Pussycat Dolls and others dressed in oversize playclothes. And I give up trying to guess the ages of the boys. Some are six feet tall and the voice hasn’t changed.
Next door is a juice/smoothie emporium which doesn’t have nearly as many customers.
I’m in line wondering where they get the money for custom coffee every day? Do the same people who bought them their iPods and cell phones and PDA’s know they’re here at Starbucks before 8 A.M. ordering complicated coffee drinks like experts?
Do parents drop them off at school and then the kids sneak over here? Or is everyone aware - both parents and school employees - that this time before school starts is loaded with potential pitfalls?
How about after school? Why are they spending hours in and around a coffee shop? Aren’t they expected home? They fill the coffee shop and the plaza in front every day, and they’re all holding drinks.
Current wisdom says caffeine can be beneficial for some, when consumed in moderation. Alternate current wisdom says caffeine is bad, bad, bad for kids.
Age-old wisdom says that kids who are ingesting stimulants before and after school may be altering their abilities (or maybe just their desire?) to do whatever the heck else they’re supposed to be doing.
I don’t envy the teacher facing this group in school. But wait - here comes a teacher to join the line. He’s obviously a favorite. All the kids let him cut in. Then they cluster around him to sip and chat.
But then he’d have to be a coffee drinker, wouldn’t he, just to keep up? If the best defense is an offense, then this teacher’s best offense is - who will spell it for us today? That’s right. C-a-f-f-e-i-n-e.
Ó Anita Garner 2009
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