This morning I went shopping at a discount clothing store (in fact, these are the only stores where I shop to buy clothes, full retail can bite me bite me bite me). It is in a neighborhood heavily populated with recent Asian immigrants. My shopping was unremarkable and successful. It would’ve been really successful if it had been FREE DAY, but that never happens.

After I checked out, I waited outside in the slightly moist and chilly breeze to be picked up. To get over my irritation in feeling moistened and chilled, I people watched. A Chinese couple who looked to be in their 80s, came through the parking lot, bickering in the sing-songy twang of their language. I watched them, confused and mildly worried as they persisted in walking down the exact middle of the main road going through the parking lot. A sidewalk next to the stores was a mere 10 feet or so away, yet they stayed in the traffic, gesturing angrily at cars. They kept going and going, yet never made a move to get over to the safety of the sidewalk. They did not seem to be clinically demented, so I figured maybe this is how it is in China, a pedestrian/vehicle free-for-all. They seemed to have survived this far, so big props to them.

My ride came, and I decided I was in the mood for a rare sweetened treat, the Iced Venti Mocha Latte. There were three Starbucks within my visual periphery. This in itself is a ponderous thought. I chose the one that was inside the Fred Meyer superstore. It was very busy, with many Asian people, and a sprinkling of white and Hispanic folks. Ahead of me in the Starbucks line a pretty Latina baby, about six months old in a fuzzy pale yellow sleeper, held on to her young mommy, tiny fingers curling around the loose fabric of her mother’s grey Roxy hoodie. The mommy ordered a giant whipped-cream-topped Frappuccino, in which the baby seemed very interested. Babies are smart.

There were three young men behind the Starbucks counter, adding to the melting pot experience of my morning: Ming, Gorat, and Seanpaul. Ming was handsome, tall, broad-shouldered, and spoke like he had about 15 cotton balls in his mouth. Gorat was really tall, like almost 8 feet tall or way more, had virulent acne, but decent shaggy brown hair and a nice smile. Seanpaul had the exact look of someone who has spent most of his life playing videogames in a basement: pale, chubby around the chin, with a glazed-yet-hyper look to the eyes. Seanpaul made my drink and started joking around with me. I must look affable or, far more remotely, like I play videogames. I made the appropriate gestures, smiles, and laughing replies, took my grand beverage, and left Seanpaul, Gorat, and Ming to their mini-United Nations, in the far corner of Fred Meyer.

Where I grew up, 99.9% of people were white Lutherans, with a smattering of white Catholics to mix things up a bit. There was one family, the Zimmermans, that was Jewish, but we kids were so very very very WASP and insular that it didn’t even register what “Jewish” was. There was absolutely no racial or cultural awareness or political correctness much less the idea that it would be a good thing.

I haven’t got anything figured out about racial harmony or anything. But I am glad for differences. And similarities. And the insanely-easy availability of overpriced large coffee drinks.