Apparently I am not the only one who thinks there are novels lurking in Starbucks, just waiting to be written.

At any given moment, the Starbucks near me is filled with people typing away on their laptops, or else staring off into space hoping that the right word will appear. I am often there myself, when the words on my porch have all gotten used up and I have to go find better ones.

But it’s a curious thing, writing in public.  As Jerry Seinfeld once pointed out, why is it that people now expect desk space as part of the deal when they buy a cup of coffee?

Today was a curious day in Starbucks. Apparently it was Give-Away Day. Employees kept coming out from behind the counter–out into the office space–bringing with them paper cups and pots of new blends they wanted us to try. At one point I had to explain to a well-meaning, smiling guy in a green apron that I am actually not a fan of coffee at all. I am a tea drinker, I said, and pointed to my Venti black tea, unsweetened, extra ice, as proof.

“Ah, but have you tried taking some of our HOT teas and having us brew them up into iced tea for you?” he said.

Now why would I do that? I couldn’t think of a good answer, so I just said, “Actually, the black tea suits me just fine.”

He went away, but a few minutes later was back, passing out cups of oatmeal to some of my fellow office workers. A man had to interrupt his cell phone call to explain that he actually wasn’t in the mood for oatmeal right then. Another  worker, a woman whom I know is writing a memoir about her childhood in France, had to remove headphones when the oatmeal was thrust in front of her. “Thank you, but it’s four in the afternoon,” she said. “Oatmeal is kind of a morning thing.”

Starbucks wasn’t deterred, however. When I went up to the counter later to get a cookie (nobody had offered me oatmeal), the guy pointed out a cardboard cup sitting off by itself.

“You know what that is?” he said. “That’s some orange spice tea I’m brewing for you. It’s cooling now, and soon I’ll put ice in it, and you’ll have a whole different iced tea experience.”

And sure enough, a few minutes later–there was a glass of tea to go along with my OTHER glass of tea. All around the room, people were sipping their unfamiliar blends, or tasting cups of oatmeal they didn’t want, struggling to get back their momentum for work.

I can’t figure out what’s going on. Maybe Starbucks is trying to drive us out, pester us with niceness and generosity.

One of my fellow writers packed up his stuff early, shoving his laptop down in its case, his cell phone into his pocket, and his glasses into his shirt pocket. “I can’t take this today,” he said. “I’m going to have to punch out early, take some time off today.”

“Where are you going to go?” I said.

“I don’t know,” he said. “Someplace where I can relax and just take it easy.”