Just plain coffee. Is it really so much to ask? Apparently so. Don’t believe me? Next time you walk into a Starbucks, or clone thereof, try ordering some. Then watch the expression of the Smiley Face behind the counter turn into spasms of confusion. I’ve reduced a couple of them to tears. It was a personal best.
Actually, it’s kind of fun to mess with them this way. Sort of like days gone by when I would get high and then torment the ants that scurried across the paper towel I had laid out on my kitchen counter for just that purpose. They would all be traveling lock-step in one direction, then BAM! I would give the towel a 180-spin. Instant chaos. This never got old for me. But about the coffee thing …
Last time I walked into one of these places I counted twenty-three different kinds from places as far off as Kenya, Rwanda, Guatemala—I didn’t even know there were that many countries to begin with. Ah, for the days where you only had to choose between Yuban, “Richness worth a second cup,” Maxwell House, “Good to the very last drop,” and my personal favorite, Folgers, “The best part of wakin’ up, is Folgers in your cup.” Now there’s a jingle. Just try that, Rwanda. See, I don’t really need my coffee to come with a passport. I just need it to motor up my brain. But tell that to a Smiley Face.
“Our coffee-of-the-day is Sumatra,” he offers a little too enthusiastically and making me wonder how much of the black brew he’s had himself so far that day.
“That’s nice,” I smile back, “but I just want plain coffee.”
“We have Verona,” he suggests, grin still in place.
“And I’m sure in Verona that would qualify, but we’re in Burbank. Just plain, old regular, coffee. Please.”
About here the twitching starts. Smiley Face’s, not mine. Though the people in line behind me are starting to grimace a little, too, but they may just have to pee.
“Okay. I’ll help you out. Do you at least have something with an American name?” I inquire, nicely, I might add.
“I don’t think coffee is grown in America,” Smiley-Face nervously replies.
And I’m ready for him. “Oh, yeah? You’ve never heard of, oh I don’t know—Hawaii? As in the-state-of?” my inner ten year old fires back. Smiley Face’s lower lip begins to quiver. I expect him to ask if he can use one of his lifelines. And now I feel bad. Sort of. “Okay. I’ll help you out. Kona? Ring a bell?”
“Oh,” he sighs with relief. “Do you want Kona? Because we don’t have Kona.”
“Then why did you ask if I want it?” I know the answer, of course. It was a rhetorical question, but I can’t resist.
The manager usually approaches about this time, having noticed the line behind me now extending out the door and down the block.
“Is there a problem?” he smiley-faces me, too.
And because he’s kind of cute and by this time I really need my morning coffee, I let him talk me into a cup of Colombian, but not until I have his assurance that it is the plainest, more boring, uninspiring crap they sell.
I smiley-face him. “Make it a grande.” And toss a couple of bucks into the tip jar.
Cheapest fun I’ve had in all day.