Mine is the barista at my neighborhood Starbucks (which, incidentally is NOT the young man pictured above*. I’m sure he’s a fine fellow who loves his mother and is respectful to older women.)
Those who know me have heard me complain about said barista before. I’ve even written a drabble about him in which he is poisoned by the customer he dissed one too many times.
My real life tormentor is actually quite an attractive man–in his early to mid-twenties, tall, with dark hair and glasses, and a tasteful five o’clock shadow. Were I his contemporary and in possession of an unlimited coffee budget, I’d be the biggest latte addict on the planet and Starbucks’ most valued customer.
About once a fortnight, I treat myself to an easy to make, garden-variety latte. Perhaps it’s having to key in nonfat for the milk. Perhaps I state the adjectives describing my beverage in the wrong order (is it grande nonfat latte or latte, nonfat, grande-sized or grande latte, nonfat?) Perhaps I remind him of the mother or aunt or cousin he despises. Maybe I once upon a time I took his parking space or cut him off in traffic. Maybe I just have one of those faces.
What is it he actually does to warrant such a rambling condemnation post, you’re probably yelling by now?
He skips me. Every friggin time when he’s preparing the drinks, pulling shots, he skips me. And not just for the people who only want brewed coffee or tea. I’m okay with those line jumpers. It’s the serving of those who have ordered espresso drinks after me but who are served before me that rankles.
Accidents happen, you might say. Busy coffee shops don’t and can’t always prepare in the exact order placed. Those might be valid arguments but I swear, I’ve been the only customer and after I’ve been waiting a while, another customer will come in and STILL get her drink before I get mine. And I also swear the barista looks right at me, right at me, before he hands the other customer her drink. He does it as if to say, “I’m screwing with you and there’s not a damned thing you can do about it.”
Today he isn’t preparing drinks but taking orders and ringing up sales. Aha! Today I won’t be skipped. Today he won’t get under my skin.
He greets me with an unexpected endearment and rings up my purchase. I give him a five dollar bill. I should get back some silver because the cost is three and change. I get no silver, only paper.
I look at him, shocked. He holds my gaze, expressionless, but says nothing. I say nothing. I think, “Did the prices go up or did he just help himself to a tip?” I walk off in a confused, elderly daze to wait for my drink. I am circling the Twilight Zone, preparing for a landing.
Another customer walks in. My faculties are still caught in an endless loop of disbelief, but I break free enough to mentally brace for the evil barista to convince his co-worker to skip me.
My drink comes in the order placed, however, a mercy I credit to the nice lady barista. As I walk out, I check the prices on the menu board. They have not changed. I stew about my tormentor’s audacity at keeping my change as a tip, a tip that he didn’t even throw into the tip jar. I go to work and rant and rave to my co-workers. I start writing this post and as I near the end of my diatribe, I have either an epiphany or a senior moment:
Did he give me back two dollars or one dollar?
Oh my gawd, the bastard’s undercharged me just to mess with me!! Pure, unadulterated evil because he’s wormed his way into my head and has whipped the flames of my paranoia into a raging inferno fueled by self-doubt. He’s laughing, taunting, daring me to say something. Wicked, wicked barista, like Satan, a handsome devil you may be, but you are rotten to your very non Fair Trade coffee bean core.
See? This is why I love being a writer. I can embrace my paranoia and like static electricity, touch my fingers to my keyboard to discharge it, then go my merry way. No one is the wiser unless, like I’ve done in this post, I confess it. Therapeutic? Yes. Makes me look like a crazy person? Absolutely. But Mr Cute Barista Dude, if you’re reading this, I’m on to you. Enjoy your momentary triumph under the blistering Pacific NW winter sun because though I may not laugh loudest, I always laugh last.
*Photo by Eris Siva (Eris the Barista) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons”