When Joseph Brittingham was attacked and beaten by armed robbers in his Upper West Side apartment late one Saturday night in November of 2008, he sustained multiple concussions so severe that it was questionable whether he'd even survive, let alone regain his previous mental and physical abilities.
After over two years of intensive care and ongoing, excruciating physical rehabilitation, Joseph was (miraculously) able to walk, talk, and even think at levels comparable to prior to the robbery. However, Joseph still couldn't remember a thing about his pre-robbery life.
And that's where Starbucks came in.
"The first day I was finally out of the hospital, I stopped into my neighborhood Starbucks, just for something to do. And the guy at the counter was like, 'Joe! Where you been? You want your usual?'"
Joseph was so surprised by the personal greeting that he simply nodded, and the clerk slid a cup of steaming dark-roast coffee toward him.
"This one's on the house. You stayed bold, right?"
Joseph again nodded, not knowing what he liked or didn't like, or even who he was. But this was a start. Now he knew - his name was Joe. And he liked his coffee bold. That sounded like the type of man he wanted to be.
"I did stay bold," he told the clerk, with certainty. A man's certainty.
That Starbucks visit left Joseph feeling so good that he returned the very same afternoon. He still felt a bit hesitant, but more confident than he'd been that morning.
Again, his trepidation was for naught.
A different (but just as welcoming) clerk greeted him with a smile and wave and immediately called to the barista, "Venti extra-hot, no-foam soy latte for Joseph!"
Again, Joseph liked that sound of that drink. Extra-hot - that was how he rolled, of course it was. And who needed foam? Foam was for sissies.
But wait - soy? SOY? Joseph's stomach felt like a rock as he struggled to digest the potential implications of that particular request.
As he awaited his drink, he leaned in toward the barista, who was busy heating (but not foaming) the soy milk for Joseph's beverage.
"This is a weird question," Joseph began, "but my memory's been a little off. The soy milk. Am I - I'm not...vegan, am I?"
The barista grinned as if Joseph had made an extremely witty joke.
"No, man. You're just lactose intolerant."
He wasn't vegan, Joseph realized, relief flooding his mind and heart and virtually every cell and atom of his being.
Lactose intolerant, he thought. I can live with that. Milk was for babies, and intolerant meant he had opinions, he didn't take things lying down. Of course. Lactose intolerant - how could he be anything but?
That Starbucks visit represented only the beginning of Joseph's subsequent voyage of self-discovery. Since that time, there have been emotional upheavals, flashbacks, post-traumatic stress, and much, much learning. But even today, years later, Joseph credits Starbucks with first putting him back in touch with who he was as a man.
And yes, in case you were wondering - throughout all the ups and downs, mental and emotional setbacks notwithstanding, Joseph has indeed stayed bold.