I was in my junior year of college when two connected events occured. The first was that my hicktown-located college decided to place a Starbucks (gasp!) on campus. The second was that I met a girl that I truly consider to be in my top five most irritating people. We were both psychology majors and as my college was miniscule we were often in the same courses. This girl had a constellation of different issues, so many that I began to feel like one of the rats we were doing brain surgery on- as if someone were drilling into my skull every time she spoke.
We got off on the wrong foot immediately, me showing up to class with a strand of pearls around my neck, her in this trying-to-look-too-hippie garb that consisted of a flowy skirt barely covering her unshaven legs and worn Birkenstocks. That first biology lecture droned on, punctuated with another character flaw of this girl. She had that pretentious desire to show up everyone in the classroom- including the professor- with inane facts and irrelevant questions. (On a moderately related note, I once remember the professor talking about cell division, when she raised her hand and -without being called upon- began to tell us in her out-of-breath fashion how she already began to study for our test and how she remembered it by comparing it to the mating habits of the rhinocerous. The test was over a month away from that particular class. I still have no idea what the connection was.) In this first class came another of her little annoyances. As Nat and I stood up after the first lecture, we were stopped by that out-of-breath voice. “Guys! Everyone, stop! I need you to sign my petition.” This was the first day of classes and the girl was already trying to get everyone to sign her petition to have the Starbucks be completely student-run. It hadn’t even had a week to be staffed by outside work. “I’ve been a barista for three years at Starbucks and I know how to make every drink in the book, I know I’d make a great manager.” Nat laughed as he shouldered past her to escape.
The worst habit of hers, compounded by all of the others, was the fact that she always carried coffee with her at all times. She’d walk into the classroom, flip off her Birkenstocks, wiggle her toes on the desk in front of her, and loudly sip her coffee throughout the class. It was as if she had to have the constant attention of everyone in class. That, or she figured she could distract all of us enough so that she would always break the curve on tests. She carried her coffee in a travel mug emblazoned with the Starbucks logo. In the winter we would hear about how she’d made herself a caramel macchiato. In the summer, we could hear the iced coffee thwapping against her thigh. Oh yeah, did I mention that her travel mug had a shoulder strap on it? And you could hear her walking everywhere in the buildings with that thwap! thwap! thwap! sound? Or raising it to her lips in between inane questions?
I guess the reason I mention all of this is because when I was younger I used to love the idea of being a barista, despite not even knowing the actual name until she announced it every five seconds. I loved that everything was measurements and combinations, that there as a special lingo to every drink. That there were wet and dry cappuccinos, that you could order a red eye, a black eye, or a dead eye. That you could order a 747 and end up not sleeping for days. And then I met that girl and learned to solidly hate coffee. I avoided the coffee shops because I knew she frequented them to study. I refused to carry coffee to class in the adorable travel mug my dad bought me because I didn’t want to be associated with her. When I got an email from my current boss offering me this job, I actually groaned. But I still went in to see the cafe and ended up falling madly in love.
I still flare up when customers that come in and remind me of that girl. It irks me when people have that pretentious “I drink a soy double latte” demeanor. Or when they scoff that the espresso doesn’t have designs on it as it did in Italy, as one woman pointed out to me today (hey, I just learned how to make a heart! She should try to pick up this stuff!). There is a complete stigma about people that frequent cafes and coffee shops, and it’s easy to see why. If anything though, I’m sure this job will give me plenty of people to write about.
For instance, we had a woman walk in yesterday. I was working with a guy coworker that is completely adorable and funny. The shop was buzzing at this point when one of our usual rich, blonde, stick thin ladies comes in. She orders three lattes, each a little different. As I’m getting them ready, she keeps impatiently tapping her nails on our countertop. As if steaming the milk for three large lattes should be instantaneous. I finish the drinks, and at this point she goes “actually, that took too long. I don’t want them anymore.” My coworker’s jaw dropped, and he had to walk away to stop from laughing. She decides that she wants a Red Bull and a granola bar, charged to her credit card. I point out the glaring sign that all charges must be atleast five dollars, and she gets angry, says that she knows my manager and is going to report me. My coworker just laughs and tells me to go ahead and charge it to her card, so I do. It got even more interesting when her credit card was declined. It this point she turns this interesting shade of red, though I’m not sure if it was anger or embarrassment. She then tries, despite the growing line behind her, to pay for everything in straight change. I tried to hand her back her credit card, but she stormed out of the store. When I left the cafe this afternoon it was still on the counter.
Another man rushed into the store today while Juli and I were working together. Juli is this 65 year old woman whose first story to me was about how her second marriage was to a gay man. She met him in a gay bar, knew he was gay, and then married him. So Juli was telling me more of her oddball stories today when this man burst through the door and rushed over to me. “I need ten cents, can you change this dollar over for me?” We have a policy against people doing this, mainly because we get about fifteen people a day asking for change for the meters. So I tell this man I can’t exchange his money, and that I’m not allowed to open the register without a purchase. He becomes infuriated, then throws his hand into the tip jar. “I’m taking this dime, I’m gonna give you three pennies”. Um, math? Before I can stop him, he runs off to the phone in the hall. Juli rushes over to my side and we stand there watching him stare at the payphone. Juli laughs. He had a quarter and he stole a dime thinking it as a thirty-five cent pay phone, when in actuality it was a fifty-cent pay phone. We stand there like cats with cream as he walks back over to us. This time we’re prepared for when his hand darts back into the tip jar. I slap it away, and Juli pulls back the tip jar protectively. At this point he’s screaming “I’m going to sue you for hitting me!” to which I respond “You’d have no case, you were stealing.” His hand darts out again, quick like a boxer. “That’s what it’s there for! That’s what this money is there for!” Juli is getting riled up and starts slapping his hand away like I had done. I start walking over to our phone, saying that security would be here in a moment (the security boys love me). At this, he stalks out of the cafe, mumbling about how he’s going to report us.