Wednesday, April 7, 2010

What's a cappuccino?


I arrive and there's a line. Which is fine - only, there's one lonely standing at the register and no partner behind the espresso machine, on the floor or anywhere else in sight.

One barista. Nine customers. It is the one I've so eloquently dubbed Fake Billy Idol, and he has a preternatural gleam in his eye, sort of a feral - "YA'LL CLOWNS DO NOT SCARE ME!" - so I figure the situation cannot be critical.

I wedge myself into the queue with style and verve that a native Brit would be proud of. As we all know from watching the insipid movie version of "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy," the British queue with world-class skill.

Fake Billy Idol, I soon realize, is arguing with a couple who has never, ever, EVER been into a Starbucks before. There is some serious doubt as to whether they've ever even wandered into sight of any sort of coffee shop before - or whether they think "coffee" comes from either a can or a dispenser at the 7-Eleven.

"WHAT'S A LATTE?" brays the She-Tourist, who swings her blonde pageboy back and forth. "WHAT'S A CAPPUCCINO?" "WHAT'S A CAFE BREVE?"

And the husband is just as bad - he wants something that doesn't have too much coffee and is trying to decide between a breve and a latte. Fake Billy Idol finally says "Look. They both have the same amount of espresso shots - just different types of milk. Tell me what you really want and I'll try to make something."

(For the record, if you've ever wondered, I highly recommend this guide: COFFEE DRINKS ILLUSTRATED)

The wife turns around to stare at the husband - to see how he will take this - and I see that her skin has been nipped and tucked so much that her hairline is somewhere north of the Arctic and you could bounce a quarter off her cheeks.

He finally orders a frappuccino.

As I step forward, the missing barista flys in front of me, no doubt returning from some nefarious errand that involves a few gallons of frappuccino base, a four-pack of red velvet cupcakes and a stripper named DeCuppa DeLovva D'Mora LaMontague.

The man just ahead of me wants tea. "What kind of tea," asks Fake Billy Idol?

"Tea" goes the man. I roll my eyes.

Fake Billy Idol answers with "Black, Green, White or Herbal?" The customer goes "Breakfast tea" and I roll my eyes again.

Fake Billy Idol goes with "So you want black?" and the customer goes "NO I want herbal tea in hot water." Hello. That's a new take on passive-aggressive I've not seen before.

Herbal tea is rung up. Cash is exchanged. He receives a cup of hot water with some teabags. I bet he has a "STOP SOCIALISM" bumper sticker on his car. That he drives to his doctor - and then hands over a Medicaid card, earned after a 30-year tenure at the post office.

I step forward. I get a smile - because they KNOW that I will not cause problem. Fake Billy Idol rings me up as tall coffee instead of my usual iced venti mocha, so we're all good. I tip a dollar and move over to the handoff bar. I briefly debate tipping a five, but think about yesterday's overdraft notice and decide not to. He is not that cute and I find out after I sit down that the lemon loaf he gave me was stale.

GrumpyBarista (my new name for the Shannon from this post) - who is always grumpy even though he always remembers my drink - hands me my iced venti mocha, remembers the no whip, doesn't bother to greet me and obviously feels that he has established a wonderful rapport with me after all the nights I spend in Starbucks typing and discussing his non-existent love life, even though he likes girls, because he warns me thusly.

"They're cleaning out a grease trap, so it sorta smells like crap."


All I have to say is *THANK YOU* - because I really did not feel like struggling for a post tonight.

Three minutes later, just as I was getting the power cord to my laptop out and plugged in, the third barista comes out of the back, where presumably she's been doing paperwork and decides to announce to the cafe at large "WHO WROTE PENIS ON THE BOARD?"

The city's downtown night cop - swinging through for his evening caffeine fix - got a big kick out of that.

The matron wearing the fakest fake leopard this side of Forever 21 was not amused.

Later, the baristas amused themselves by seeing how many gallons of milk they could carry at once.

The frail girl managed four - two in each hand. Fake Billy Idol - who, if possible, is even more frail, because he's about as big around as a fence-post and defines what you'd think of as "twink" - manages six - three in each hand.

Starbucks Standards and Practices was not amused.

I, however, was amused. I needed these laughs.

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