Friday, October 31, 2008

Speak softly and don't get any coffee

As we all know, deskslaves need caffeine. Lots of it. It helps us type important phrases like "Jackie Chan" and "Stephenie Meyer" quickly. I usually try to tank up before coming to work and then switch to the antioxidant-rich and much cheaper green tea. But yesterday, I needed a boost, so on my way in to DeskSlave Central I pulled into a Starbucks drive-through. (I know, starbucks=$tarbu¢k$=evil, but I was late)
"Hello, welcome to Starbucks! What can I get started for you?" came the voice of the cheery young man over the intercom.
As you may recall, this deskslave is a boring, middle-aged man. The coffee beverage of choice for my demographic is NOT a double tall mocha frappaccino with non-fat soy whip cream and a pineapple slice. It's just boring old coffee. Black coffee, in fact. Putting the drip back in drip if you will. You are what you drink, so make mine dark and bitter. I sometimes get funny looks like I could not possibly be ordering something with only one ingredient. But there you have it.
I try to cooperate with the sizing conventions at places like Starbucks. The sizes, in a rational world, would be small, medium and large. But of course we have the grande and the venti. I forget what small is. Probably like "diminuto" or maybe "miniscolo." So I piped back in an equally cheery voice, "Hi, I'd like a venti* coffee, please." Always polite, never demanding: we know what that is like. I think I may be the most polite person when I am on the other side of the counter.
"I'm sorry, what did you say?"
I'm a little soft-spoken, it's true. Years of working in the hushed atmosphere of the library have turned my deep, booming baritone into a pathetic rasp. "Venti coffee, please."
Another pause.
"Could you say that again? Toffee? Do you mean Mocha?"
"No! Coffee!" I stretched out the second word so as not to leave any doubt. I was definitely overmodulating my voice, too.
"Coffee! COFFFEE COFFEE COFFEE!! CHARLIE OSCAR FOXTROT FOXTROT ECHO ECHO! It's the second word on the Starbucks logo! The one that's not 'Starbucks!!'" OK, I admit it, I was raving. I was late and undercaffeinated. This guy was probably fucking with me.
"I'm sorry, sir, could you pull around...we can't understand you."
I just wanted to leave at this point. But that's not easy to do at a drive through; I was hemmed in. SUV in front of me, SUV behind me. For the very first time, I cursed my diminutive, gas-sipping Subaru. If I had an SUV, I could go over the curb and get back on the main road. Maybe even take out a few benches and a bus shelter on the way. Instead, I meekly advanced to the window. A young woman comes to the window and looks at me in much the same way as I would if a car had pulled up and there was a talking dog in the driver's seat. "What did you want again?"
" Venti coffee?" I was a little embarrassed. The mild mannered deskslave had briefly become a maniac.
"Oh." Over her shoulder to her coworker: "He said coffee. A venti."
The coworker with the headset sighed, and gave the ceiling a Lord-give-me-strength look. This was clearly my fault. I could have left then, I guess. Pulled away. But I almost had the darn coffee, and it had only cost me my pride and whatever a venti goes for. A non-deskslave made of sterner stuff might have demanded it for free. Instead I overtipped.

* The sign says Venti, so I say Venti. I have been corrected by staff who pronounce it like the Spanish word for the number twenty. Don't ask me why.

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