So there I am, on my lunch hour waiting at the Starbuck’s counter inside Barnes & Noble, 2 bargain books in hand for purchase along with my Iced, Venti, fat-free, half-caff, extra-caramel, caramel macchiato.
One of the books perched precariously on my arm was about a Southern Belle who seemingly gets away with killing her high-school sweetheart (for awhile) until it catches up with her years later in modern-day Chicago. And the other is a parodied, How-To sex book chosen as a gag gift for my best friend’s upcoming bachelorette party.
I am almost giddy about my cheap and decadent literary purchases as I anticipate the rush I’m about to feel from all the sugar and caffeine I’ll soon be consuming in my coffee confection.
As I hand my books to the cashier and eloquently—if not poetically—place my order, I become aware of two grey-haired gentlemen approaching from behind. One man, who I’d guess to be about 75, is speaking very loudly to the other about how he has to take his pill very soon. They are eye-balling the menu and scratching their heads when I hear them mumble to one another the ultimate question: How in the HELL do you just order a “regular cup of coffee” in this place?!
While I am paying for my purchase, the cute little green-apron-clad barista asks the gentlemen what they would like. One of the men says very clearly to her: “I would like a REGULAR coffee please. None of that special stuff will be necessary. I just want your plain Starbucks coffee.”
The girl in the green apron hesitates slightly and says to the man in a slightly raised voice: “Sir, we have SEVERAL varieties of Starbucks coffee here.” And then she launches into a sermon about light and medium roast blends versus richer, darker blends.
The man tries again, this time attempting to be a bit more adventurous, and trying to meet her in the middle with attempted “coffee-house speak” by ordering a Starbucks “House Blend.”
The barista, exasperated by this man’s total inability to relate to the extensive foreign-language menu hanging ominously on the wall, practically shouts: “Sir!?! We have many, MANY HOUSE blends. Which ONE can I get for you?!?”
He leans across the counter to meet her gaze, agitated, and now aware of the “stir” (pun intended) this exchange is causing and replies: “You know, all I want is a basic coffee, just a BASIC coffee. I don’t know how to read that DAMN menu!” Then unintelligible and frustrated grumbles and mumbles come from both of these poor men.
By this time, the cute little barista in the green apron has transformed into a wild-eyed, cup-wielding, crazed, green-aproned MONSTER as she throws the cups around, heaves heavy sighs, rolls her eyes and begins to fill his cup with something hot and brown… presumably and Lord willing, some type of “basic” coffee.
As I take my receipt and fold it into my purse… concealing my grin the entire time, biting my lip and trying desperately not to laugh at the scene I’ve just witnessed… I see a 70-ish woman behind the men in line say to them in a soothing tone: “Come on guys… just accept it… we’re living in the 20-something century now.”
And I walk away.
Looking back on what that lady said to her fellow septuagenarians was actually quite profound. At first I thought she was referring to the 21st century in which we now live… but she couldn’t remember whether it was the 20th or 21st. However, with our culture’s exponentially-increasing pace, it could ALSO be called “the 20-something century”… because I’m sure that to the 70-somethings, it is the youth—the “20-somethings”— to whom THIS century now belongs.