Blogsurfing this morning, I ran across the Coffee Shop Etiquette Guide. Heh. Somebody behind the counter has some real issues with unruly customers! Most of the things on this list I would never do, I'm usually very polite and undemanding when I go into a restaurant - I've seen too many of those shows where the cook or waitress spits in your food. But the first item on the list reminded me of an experience I had last week.
Out and about, running errands, and I saw a coffee/bagel shop I hadn't seen before. What a treat, says I, and since I hadn't had brekky, I stopped in for a sip and a nibble.
The place was nearly empty. I scanned the menus hanging from the ceiling, and looked around for somebody to take my order. There were 3 or 4 workers milling around behind the counter, youngsters, looking bored and irritated. Why, I don't know. Maybe they hate the summer heat, maybe they'd rather be surfing on the coast, maybe their morning rush had included more than the average cranky customer. But why take it out on me? One by one their eyes found me - and I saw them finding me - realizing I was trying to make eye contact, and sliding away quickly, pretending they hadn't seen me.
Finally, the fellow by the register acknowledged me. Maybe taking money isn't such a horrendous and irritating job as the others had. I moved down the counter to him and, a little hesitatingly, asked for a coffee and bagel.
He didn't take the orders, he told me. I was doing it wrong. Oh, says I, looking around to find a sign or something to tell me where to go and what to do. There was a sign over the other end of the counter, but it said something like "Want a Taste". That's where I had been standing a moment before, but there was nobody there to take my order, and the other workers were still industriously ignoring me (still the only customer in the place).
I turned back to him, and was on the verge of asking him if he could make an exception since I was the only one there, but he must have read my mind because he was already shaking his head at me. I was doing it wrong, and there would be no brooking of protocol there. I guess I stood there hesitating a little too long, because he came out from behind the counter, took me by the shoulders, turned me around like a child, and marched me over to the other counter. With him standing behind me, one of the girls came over and took my order. They exchanged some kind of "look", and she half-hid a smile as she turned away to get my stuff.
If I hadn't wanted that coffee and bagel so badly, I would have just walked out.
But truth to tell, that bagel was worth every drop of humiliation, and I went back again the next day for another. This time the shop was full, and though I could plainly see the flow of traffic, I felt like an old veteran. I knew what to do, and nobody would laugh at me this time! I joined the queue, straining to read the hanging menu at the other end of the counter so I'd be ready with the right lingo (it's a bagel and a schmear of cream cheese) when my turn came. God forbid I should hesitate or ask questions and cause any sniggering or irritation.
Anybody remember the soup nazi? Well, that's what this place reminded me of. I was IN a Seinfeld episode. Trembling lest these little pipsqueak coffee-snobs should look down their snotty noses at me. Coffee Nazis. I wouldn't have been surprised to hear somebody should "no more coffee for you!"
*sigh* The real loss would be those bagels. Spinach florentine, crispy outside, whipped cream cheese. To die for.
I know that snobs come in all shapes and sizes, and they surely can be found in almost any industry, it's not just coffee shops and food counters. And I do understand that a well-run coffee shop must have it's procedures. But there should be at least a tiny smidgy of humanity remaining in the employees, enough to have a little sympathy for the dummy who doesn't *know* the rules, for god's sake. And to understand that on a slow day, rules may be bent or broken, procedures can be shifted.