If I were asked to go to my happy place, I wouldn’t picture myself sitting near a bubbling stream, laying on a beach, or taking in the view from atop a mountain. My happy place is sitting across from Steve in a Starbucks.

There…I’ve said it. I should probably duck and cover now. Don’t hurt me. People would be more tolerant of me if I said I was an axe murderer (I’m not) than admitting that I’m a big fan of Starbucks.

So why do I like something as commonplace, corporate, predictable, and unimaginative as Starbucks? It’s just for those very reasons.

Like most people these days, Steve and I spend a lot of time in front of our computers and when we want to take a break, we always look forward to going to Starbucks. We reconnect there in a way that we wouldn’t if we stayed at home; we talk about what’s on our minds, the kids, what’s going on at work, our concerns. There’s not any stress involved because the experience is always the same and we don’t have to invest a lot of time or money yet the half hour that we spend talking and having a dry cappuccino with one Splenda (his) and a tall house coffee in a grande cup (mine) is always satisfying. We leave feeling like we’re a couple again and not just roommates.

Maybe my affection for Starbucks can be traced back to when the kids were young and we stopped at Starbucks during road trips to Southern California.  Once we arrived at our destination, because no one in our family is a big breakfast eater, and for Steve, a day without caffeine is a day without sunshine, we would hit Starbucks before heading to Disneyland. I have many fond memories of the five of us squeezed around one of their small round tables laughing and talking about our strategy for squeezing the most fun out of our vacation day.

Starbucks continues to serve as the marker for us when we travel between here and SoCal to visit Valerie. We always stop at the Starbucks in Lebec on I-5 just before the Grapevine into Los Angeles. We creakily get out of the car and try and regain some feeling in our butts knowing that we’re on the home stretch.

Our 24 year-old son worked at Starbucks in Petaluma when he was in high school and then again in San Francisco near Union Square when he was going to SF State. Having him come home smelling like coffee was certainly an improvement over when he worked at a Togos and came home smelling like pastrami. I still occasionally wear his stained green Starbucks apron when I’m cooking. Now, the green mantle is getting passed to his little sister who starts barista training at Starbucks tomorrow.

If Starbucks didn’t exist, would Steve and I be forced to be more creative about finding a place to have some conversation and connect? Possibly. But we don’t drink so I don’t see us sitting in a bar, the pollen count outside would send Steve’s allergies into a frenzy, and going out to eat is way too expensive and far too caloric.

I guess the alternative is having a Diet Coke at McDonald’s.