Connecticut Voice

Your LGBTQ+ Voice

Chion: Starbucking

Things don’t always go as planned. In fact, nothing ever really goes exactly as planned.

You start with one Big Idea. To make it happen, a thousand other things need to happen. Like a cell, the idea divides. BAM! Ten more things have to happen. You make errors. You pivot. BAM! More errors and pivots. The idea divides. And on and on.

Sometimes those errors and pivots seriously amend your original Big Idea. Now it’s a totally different project.

And sometimes after the first or 20th error or pivot, the idea just…evaporates.

But for a man named Winter, all of his errors and pivots were in support of a singular goal.

When he decided in 1997 to drink coffee inside every corporate-owned Starbucks on planet Earth, sure it was a lofty goal. But not THAT lofty. There were only 1,400 of them at the time. It would make for a good story, right? Dude visits every Starbucks in the world?

Winter started a website,, where he posts everything about each store, including photos–a part of the experience he comes to love very much.

Maybe this is the way he thought it would go from there, back in the 90s: Every once in a while when a new Starbucks would open up, he’d visit. His arrival would herald a new third place for that lucky city or town. The store would be so fresh, you could smell every bean in the room.

New store = Winter’s there! People would recognize him and get their picture taken with him.

In this alternate timeline, Starbucks doesn’t grow very fast. A new location opens up every couple of months. Maybe Winter commits to doing this thing he calls “Starbucking” for a year. Then he’d find another big project. Maybe…setting a record for most toothpicks in a beard*? Or the longest distance traveled in a giant pumpkin**? This Starbucks thing would turn out to be one thick chapter in his even thicker memoir.

But in this dimension, the one you’re reading this in, Starbucks stores grew. Fast. And so did his commitment to the Big Idea.

It’s been 26 years now, and as of this writing, he has visited 19,172 Starbucks locations. He lives in worlds between Starbucks as a computer programmer (remote, of course). He joined me for our interview from a hostel in Taiwan.

From him, I learned that in this lifetime, the pivots are the best parts of a lifetime.

The car breaks down, the flight is canceled. The body wont work as well. The caffeine is causing damage. Time has run out. He finds himself at crossroad after crossroad. Left or right. North or south. A fire hydrant in Idaho. What am I doing here? Quick, decide. Again. Pivot. Again. Stay the course. Hands on the wheel.

When he writes the memoir, we’ll hear more about how Winter grew in his container. The ways in which the container felt both safe and dangerous. How his scaffolding stayed reliable. Or, reliable enough.

And we’ll learn about those pivot points. When he had the easiest reasons to quit the Starbucks thing quietly but did not. When free rides and good luck popped up in a cosmically elegant manner that made him wonder again and again about the bigness and intelligence of the universe.

All these years later, people do recognize him at Starbucks sometimes! They get their picture taken with him. Hashtag Starbucking. He says he loves it. And I have to admit, I love it for him. I want him to be adored and wondered about.

And he says he’s developed some new passions! He’s committed to having a donut at every Ducks Donuts. So far he has visited 136 out of 215 locations, including in the United States, Saudi Arabia, Bangkok, Vietnam, and Taiwan. And I don’t know what he’s ordered at all the Maple Street Biscuit Companies he’s visited, but he’s up to 13.

So since nothing goes as planned, if you let it, all the zig-zagging brings you somewhere special. And everything you do is something that has never been done before, because no one is you!

And no one has or probably ever will do what Winter has done. Is doing. For the rest of his life.

But we will all pivot, pivot, stay the course. Hands on the wheel.

The Starbucking episode is here.

Winter’s website is here.

*Show featuring most toothpicks in beard.

**Show featuring giant pumpkin world record sailing down a river. :