B-Town Undercover: Where The Heck *Is* Your Office?

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by Shawn Underwood

Underwood Undercover here, entering the information superhighway via my coffee hole on-ramp office.

I look around to see what usual suspects are at the office today…er, um…I mean the Starbucks in Normandy Park.

Not only can I get a fresh brewed cup to my liking, I can observe the daily dramas that unfold. Not that I am eavesdropping. It’s not considered eavesdropping when it’s “research material” for my “column.” At times, customers breaking obvious coffee etiquette distract me, and that’s when I pull out my secret weapon: “air quotes.” Only these are used “in print” so “look out”!

Is it okay to talk loudly into your cell phone head set while in Starbucks?

NO, not okay.

One nearby yet unaware individual engages in a conversation over a phone that needs no phone if his intended recipient were within a mile of the booming voice. The only redeeming value in this obnoxious neighbor is the contest to insert made up replies to fill in the “blanks.” A casual observer might think this “Dress For Success” (unsuccessfully) person’s cheese has slipped off her cracker.  And who or what does the blabber look at when they impart their vital news? It is a bit bizarre, talking on one’s phone while others stand by and listen to your conversation. No, this is a definite Starbucks foul. I don’t mind cell phones, as long as they don’t ring; buzzing is okay, and then take your business outside so other busy people such as myself are not privy to your conversation, unless it is good for my “column.”

Underwood Undercover has also observed a certain “Man Ministry” of sorts that takes place at least once a week at her coffee hole. Freshly-scrubbed men of varying ages hold hands, with heads bowed (although I did spot one bowing dude checking out a lycra-clad gym attendee once but perhaps that was a form of “prayer”). Quiet talking ensues (sometimes I think they’re really whispering about me, which they obviously are), and of course tons of coffee is consumed like it’s some sort of holy water. As far as I’m concerned they can have their meeting but I don’t see how they can concentrate on their prayers with all that caffeine coursing through their veins.

Of course who am I to talk – I’m supposed to be writing about happenings in town and here I am watching everyone in my “office.” Whoops, my phone just rang. Forgot the buzzer feature, and just broke my own cardinal rule.

Not only do the “Man Ministry,” and ringing cell phones distract me, but also something else diverts my attention outside today: there are no less than six policemen and three civilians standing outside my headquarters. I check them out closely. Are they about to join hands and pray to the coffee gods? Hmmm…perhaps this will be a good tidbit for my column. I recognize a few of the policeman as “regulars,” so now I can claim that I have my own private protection right here at my place of work, sort of like my own “Secret Service.”

After all, I am Underwood Undercover.

On Sunday, the dynamics change at Starbucks. People flock in for coffee after church. Rummy-eyed parents with soccer/baseball kids in tow rush in for a caffeine pick-me-way-the-heck-up, and large groups congregate (hey, it’s Sunday, congregations are expected!). Empty seats are difficult to find. One family in particular are big offenders of a very obvious rule: “No Squatters Allowed.” They gather most of the chairs around a few tables, thus leaving chair-less tables for the rest of us. This rude family has twenty people in it, and not only are they LOUD, but one of them breaks my DRESS CODE and wears pajama bottoms, posing as pants to my office.


Then there is the Single Dad and his darling-though-rambunctious child. Said child is about three. Her Dad talks to someone he knows while the small savage runs up, down, and around the displays. I suppose her Dad might finally notice something’s amiss if one of the mugs on the display case crashed to the floor. Rather lazy parenting if you ask me. He has not asked me yet but if he does…Underwood Undercover has her doggy leash in the car, and she’s not afraid to use it.

On someone else’s brat.

So feel free to stop off at Underwood Undercover’s office anytime, especially if you have “newsworthy” information for my “column.”

However, you must follow these rules, or be prepared to suffer the wrath of a totally hyped up and wickedly wired Underwood Undercover:

  1. Turn your cell phone to “buzz only.”
  2. Wear appropriate attire, no pajamas please.
  3. Leash your lively children.
  4. Leave at least two chairs to a table.
  5. Stop checking out the lycra-clad chicks whilst “praying.”

Have a nice day!

Twenty-five years of living in Burien gives Humorist Shawn Underwood much fodder for her writings.

All of her stories are true, or at least have a grain of truth with no added embellishments.

Or something like that.

Read more of her humor at her website here.

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