Sure sign you’re becoming a fixture at Starbucks: The barrista smiles, says, “Hi Cynthia!” and holds up a paper cup with my name and the only Starbucks drink I know (grande mocha) already written on the side.

“I think this means I’m coming in here too much,” I joke.

“No,” she retorts, “It means I have a good memory.”

Starbucks, though, is joining my pantheon of favorite people-watching places. Hanging out in there, waiting for my order, is almost as good as watching a movie.

There’s the guy who sat in the corner, reshaving with a cheap plastic razor. His skin looked beard-free to me, but he obviously didn’t think so as he scraped away at a hairless cheek. He had a plain coffee, wore an old suit with flip-flops and socks, and was coding (I think in Ruby on Rails) on a MacBook Air.

And the woman who comes in every day with a toddler in tow, orders the most complicated coffee drinks I’ve so far heard, a different one every day and the specs get longer and longer. She accepts the cup, jackets it with a home-made felt insulator-wrap-thingee. Then she takes a few sips, removes the wrap and dumps the still-full cup in the trash can outside. She bundles the kid into the car seat and drives off.

Or the older couple, he with his iPad and she with her Dell laptop, who each read Yahoo! News headlines, talking on their cell phones through bluetooth headsets…and holding hands.

And then there were the young woman and old lady this morning. “I’m thinking we’ll pull the twins out of his class, Grandmom,” said the girl, “He’s a great teacher, but he’s gay.”

Grandmom had been browsing the thermoses and cups while the girl talked, but now she stopped and turned. “He’s gay? What makes you say that?”

“Katie’s mom saw him with his boyfriend, kissing!” she said, with a significant nod to her grandmother, “I can’t have my kids around a gay, right?”

(I bite my tongue, and edge closer. I know saying something is NOT gonna help–or convince–anyone, but it’s deliciously tempting.)

Grandmom, though, doesn’t bite. “Why do you think gay people are child molesters?” she asks quietly, “Have you ever seen me molest a little girl?”

The girl laughs. “Come on, Grandmom. This is serious.”

Grandmom isn’t laughing, “What exactly did you think I was doing with your Aunt Marcia? I thought your mom told you; you know she’s not really your aunt.”

Other folk, waiting for coffee, are looking everywhere BUT these two…and they’re listening hard.

The girl walks out. Grandmom stares at the thermoses. A minute or so later, she follows her granddaughter out the door.

And I’m thinking, THIS is why I go to Starbucks.