Sunday, September 26, 2010

The Starbucks Incident

A Moscow Starbucks. Not the scene of the incident:



This story is embarrassing on a number of levels. For one, I'd like to hide from you exactly how much time I spend in coffeeshops in Moscow. And two, I'd like to be able to claim that at least I'm spending time in cute boutique cafes. But as the title gives away, I've recently broken my no-Starbucks pact and occasionally started patronizing the Seattle coffee giant. This is because (1) the coffee tastes good (mind you, my taste buds have probably eroded after many months in lands with nasty brown liquids posing as coffee) and (2) it gives me an injection of American culture that makes me feel oh so warm and cozy...

Which leads to the next level of embarrassment -- my inappropriately naive behavior of late.

So the deal is that I spend a lot of time in coffeeshops because I can productively work in them. I tote my computer and some files and maybe a book to one of many caffeinated locales and sit for hours, usually without scrutiny, and work on my dissertation or job applications or something of that sort. I also work in libraries, but they don't serve coffee (well, actually they do, but I'm convinced that eating in the state library cafeteria is how I've gotten food poisoning twice here).

On Thursday, I planted myself in a Starbucks for several hours. I purchased a very overpriced medium (I will not use Starbucks terminology) coffee. I diligently edited Chapter 4 of my dissertation. I started to revise part of my essay for a postdoc application. Then after an appropriate amount of time I had to use the facilities. I knew I would be quick, and my stuff seemed secure in an upstairs corner of the coffeeshop, so I grabbed my wallet (maybe I'd indulge in a cupcake...) and headed downstairs. I did, in fact, decide to indulge in a cupcake, and while I was waiting in a short line I noticed the girl from a table near mine upstairs push her way through to the cash register and say something to the Starbucks employee. My gaze followed her as she turned and ran over to her boyfriend, who was holding MY computer in his hands. I was suddenly standing before them. They told me that some man had tried to run off with my computer and they recognized right away that he was stealing it (because he wasn't me -- that is, the person who had been sitting behind said computer for the last two hours). I didn't see the perpetrator myself and I don't know how the boy caught the thief or got my computer back from him. I was in a state of shock and relief. I must have said "thank you so much" thirty times to the couple. They told me I really shouldn't leave my computer unattended. (A no-brainer that I apparently hadn't wrapped my brain around.) When I returned to my little table (sans cupcake, avec computer), the couple -- my guardian angels -- packed up to leave. I wanted to give them something or do something for them, but all I could do was say "thank you" a few more times. And then I sat there feeling naive, stupid, but most of all insanely LUCKY.

I never thought of myself as the Ivan-Durak type. Ivan-Durak or 'Ivan the fool' is a Russian fairy tale character, who is a naive and simple fool who nevertheless always has amazingly good things happen to him. Anyway, there I was, an American Ivan-Durak in a Moscow Starbucks.

Wow, let's hope I've learned my lesson. And let's also hope that many other Muscovites are as kind and amazing as the young couple that saved my computer. Wherever you two are right now: SPASIBO!!!!!!!!

6 comments:

Junsui said...

First of all, so glad that your computer is safe (it's true; Ivan-durak, despite being a durak, does lead an incredibly charmed life)! Secondly, I'm sorry you have to drink the sludge that most of Moscow presents as coffee. I remember a nice little coffee shop near the old Arbat where they served a decent cappuccino (and had cinnamon to sprinkle to on top), but sadly can't recall its name.
Be strong, comrade, and know that delicious coffee awaits you upon your return!

Junsui said...

p.s. not that I'm calling you a durak or anything. I'm just taking your own description and running with it. :)

Christine said...

I like Starbucks, but I also refuse to use their terminology, even when the staff corrects me. The computer thing could have happened to anybody. I haven't locked my house in 5 years. I am intrigued by this Ivan the Fool character. I feel like it might be speak to me : ) Glad you have a few guardian angels in Moscow.

patentexaminer said...

I'm surprised you were so brazen! Do you remember in Prague/Budapest/Berlin how paranoid you were about that computer? It was with us all of the time. Do you remember why you were so nervous? Was it becuase it was new? Well, anyway, that is really an amazing story and I think it says a lot about Moscow. Score one for the good guys!

Renee said...

Wow. This is indeed *incredible* luck.

I hope you back up your files regularly; if not, please look into Mozy.com, who for 5$ a month will remotely back up your computer every day. I discovered this after I spilled (with the help of my toddler) a glass of hot tea on my laptop 3 months before my dissertation filing date.

Julia M. said...

K - I definitely invoked the durak reference on myself. As long as I stay this lucky, I don't mind being a durak;) And I'm gonna find this Arbat cafe STAT!

C - thanks for the reassuring words. I'll try to find a good translation of an Ivan Durak fairy tale for you to read (with all your spare time! :)

A - OK, this is really funny because the computer I have now is *newer* than that other computer. I think the thing was that it was the first time I was backpacking with a computer in '08 and was worried about hostel theft. I guess because I'm stationary in Moscow (I mean, I live here right now - I don't have another address) so I've gotten lax.

R - thanks for the back-up tip. I have a 1 terabyte hard drive that I back-up to, but an additional online back-up might not be such a bad idea. Did I ever tell you about how my computer crashed when I was GSI-ing for Eve and I lost all the students' grades and had to ask them to return all their homeworks to me to RE-record the scores? After that I pretty much learned my lesson about backing up...

...sorry for slow comments... bogged down by cold and deadline this week...