Dearest Coffee Drinkers,
You shuffle in every morning and I am endeared by the way that wakefulness visibly percolates across your face at the first whiff of dark roast. You blink and stare, bewildered, when I ask you “Room for cream?”
Your preschool children smile like sunrise as I artfully present cinnamon rolls. The brightness of a young girl’s summer dress burns a colorful shadow behind my eyelids to remind me of the simple goodness of chocolate milk.
Tapping your pointy, expensive shoes impatiently, you mention “European-style” espresso which, “tastes different, you know?’ and, although vacations abroad are beyond my minimum-wage horizons, my 4 years of college Spanish are more than enough to translate your pretension; nonetheless, you leave my carefully rendered “coffee with milk” untouched and tipless on your table. With a bitterness rivaling burnt espresso, I vow that your subsequent mornings with be covertly sabotaged with decaf.
Smiling over the steaming cup, you waddle awkwardly away from the counter to preserve the careful spirals I’ve crafted in your milkfoam, and I love you for this small kindness.
Ordering breakfast for your family, you don’t ask if this is just a summer job for the recently-graduated, but mention that even most brilliant academics have at one time waited tables. Even with several classrooms and this coffee-shop counter between us, you treat me as an old friend, and I hope you taste the gratitude (and extra vanilla) I’ve left in your latte.
Adventurously, you acknowledge the power I wield over the fate of your mental states and request a product of my creativity. You leave with the friendly glow of a new, shared favorite beverage and the wisdom that the best things exist between the lines of the menu.
Ordering a full-scale lunch for your wife and children, complete with coffees and ice creams, you stand counting the seconds as I scramble to fulfill every changing whim, juggling 6 quarts of chocolate and salted caramel next to separately-steamed soy and skim. Your blandly arrogant expression belies my victoriously swift completion; you have failed to recognize the minor miracle that the extra sweet haf-caf mocha, vanilla sugar-free soy latte, decaf americano, hot hand-steeped herbal tea, three kiddy cones, and extra ice have all reached their proper destinations.
Perhaps dazed by the summer heat or the smell of unindustrialized coffee, you assume us to be a Starbucks and order your “venti hazelnut-vanilla frappuccino” despite its absence from the menu. Vexed by my assertion of its impossibility and heedless of the my patient cataloging of what we do offer, you demand white chocolate and warn me, upon being denied, that you don’t know what you want now.
But a haughty exit is more relief than insult.