Let me begin by insisting that I don’t hate people. I love people! I even married one once. But sometimes some people drive me nuts and in this case the people driving me crazy choose to buy coffee and things at my neighborhood coffee shop.
RULE BREAKER ALERT: For the sake of making the world a better place, I am going to name the business that I am about to write about. I don’t have anything bad to say about the business…I prefer to buy my morning coffee and rolls at this place afterall…but some of the business’s clientele get on my nerves! The business is Isles Bun and Coffee in Minneapolis. Wonderful coffee and bakery, hard-working great staff. If I can help make their lives better, I am happy to lend a hand.
Now back to my rant.
On a typical morning I arrive either very early or a little after rush hour (more often a little after rush hour) to avoid the crowds because the “Birds of a Feather” adage fits this place like a glove. Where there might be one annoying person at slow periods the pests multiply when the place is busy. This only multiplies the pain. I start grumbling about it twenty yards from the shop’s door. It is all but a certainty that someone there will be a pain. My little coffee shop never fails to attract annoying specimens of the human race.
Offender 1: The Dork Dad
Here he is: Skinny guy desperately going for the upscale East Coast beatnik look. We are supposed to think he’s an eccentric success so he choses to dress in a stereotyped poet couture. It is high-end grunge (and dated, but this Minneapolis) accented with a puffy Patagonia ski vest. He will be wearing Adidas sneakers or Born loafers. He has dark carefully unkempt hair, is three days away from his last shave, and smells of some trendy cologne. Glasses are a must, whether his eyes need them or not. In short, he is going for the loose cool look, but he’s a lock on tight, screaming Type A type all the way.
So this guy brings his three-year old daughter along for coffee because he’s such a great dad. He also brings her along as evidence to everyone that he appears to have scored at least one woman at one point in his life. Dork Dad stages things to the best of his ability. We are to think his wife loves him, cooks gourmet meals with organic ingredients and pricy brunellos when she isn’t teaching French or art history at some local school. We are to think this is good. And he is watching the Adorable One, his — No — their daughter, conceived and raised in spiritual harmony and humanist love, because he wants to be with her, not because he has to watch her. The Adorable One is, we are to think, a little petal off the old nurturing flower, to be, to just happily be…so, yeah, he’s prostituting her, making a prop of her. And I’m going to puke too.
My experience with this particular patron certainly is skewing my perspective. Like I said early, I don’t hate people. I even like upscale East Coast cultural elites (real ones) and I have nothing against French and art history. I even like little kids. But Dork Dad thinks ordering coffee is a teachable moment for his daughter. He decides to let the Adorable One order his coffee and cinnamon roll for him. Of course she can’t do that. (Have you heard a kid ever correctly pronounce cinnamon?) Meanwhile the rest of us are standing eight deep in this tiny coffee shop. Eventually he will relent and tussle the Adorable One’s hair and order for himself, but he isn’t done; his daughter is instructed on how to pay the barista for the coffee. The rest of us in the coffee shop? None of us thinks this is adorable at all. There is a collective, but all too silent, groan. There is no mistaking the sound of my teeth grinding, however. Dad smiles and and laughs and hands the kid a $10 bill which the kid cannot figure out what she should do with what has just been given to her. The girl just stares blankly and the rest of us all know that same little fingers clutching the $10 are also in the kid’s mouth and runny nose. Eventually that $10 will end up with our poor barista one way or the other and that barista will be serving our drinks and making our change…
Kids don’t spread disease. Dork Dad’s do.
I’m not really sure how this all ends. Eventually I black out. I really think evolution has taken special care of me. I go into some form of shock and block out the memories of these events when they threaten my sanity. At some point I am awakened by the smell of a hot cup of coffee in my hand. What happened between the teeth grinding and my coffee is — mercifully — lost to me.
Offender 2: The Girlfriends
A group of women show up almost every morning for coffee together. They talk about how wonderful life is — kids, house, the garden, sometimes even the husband — and chat and chat and chat in that bragging kind of way. It is far too early for me to listen to this kind of stuff even at the end of the day. So I’m set up for a lot stress.
Here’s what drives me nuts about Offenders #2. They stand in line with me for what feels like hours (because of people like Dork Dad) and when it is time for them to order…they don’t know what they want. It’s a freaking coffee shop! Order coffee, damn it! But not only can’t they decide what to order, they have to talk about it. “Oh, Betsy, what was that cake we had at Wanda’s the other day?” or “I wonder if I should just have a coffee today or something more satisfying.”
Yeah, I’ll give you something satisfying…Back of the line ladies!
Seriously, if I owned the place I would send them back to the end of the line and charge them double when they worked their way back up to the barista. If they still could not make a decision (e.g., Coffee or no coffee) I would send them back again and charge them three times as much when they came to their third time to order. Et cetera. I would either make a lot of cash or lose some very annoying customers. I think I would prefer the latter.
Offender 3: The Clueless
Swear to god…you had to see it to believe it…but let me start by saying I ended up kind of liking this lady. She might be a little wacky, but legitimately so, not dismally so in a self-absorbed sort of way. But here it is…the barista is shouting out something like “Large skim latte with whip! Large skim latte with whip!” No one answers. “Large skim latte with whip!” There are maybe 6-8 of us there and we are all shaking our heads and looking at each other. Irritated and impatient. One woman, however, is staring off into a corner, seemingly ignoring the barista. She seems almost annoyed.
“Ma’am…is this yours?”
“No, I ordered a large.”
“This is a large.”
“That’s a large?”
“I ordered one with whip.”
“It has whip.”
“Is that whip?”
“Whip, not foam?
“I ordered a latte.”
“This is a latte.”
And so on.
You know…well I don’t know, actually. Maybe I should give this last nut case some credit. She’s a very careful consumer and not afraid to look stupid. There’s something refreshing in that. But when all I want is a small Italian roast with an added shot of espresso and don’t need to consult with friends or haul along a three-year old to do it, I think I should be able to get in a line that caters to more reckless consumers like me.
But I do like my little coffee shop and I suppose if there were not people there to drive me nuts the place might feel like home — only me — and who wants that. But please, if you are an Offender, try to snap it up a bit, ok?