Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Out of the frying pan...

(meatballs, no mayo)

I can't tell if it's me, or others.  It seems that everywhere I go I'm stuck in some situation, some interaction, with somebody that is driving me nuts.  But when I try to look at the interaction objectively I can't see where it's me that's doing it.  It seems to be woven into the world around me.  It's everywhere and many of my daily interactions are evidence of it.

Yesterday morning I went to get a coffee. There was one guy in front of me.  He was young, about the same age as the girl behind the counter helping him, and he was leaning forward on the counter.  She seemed to be taking his order at first but then I realized that they were just discussing the various merits, or lack, of the items on the menu.  She was being bubbly and informative.  After a minute or two of watching this clumsy flirting I began to shift my weight from foot to foot and gave the occasional scraping of the shoe against the floor.  Their fumbling continued, with me unnoticed.

The young guy finally ordered a coffee.  I wasn't paying attention to whether or not she had actually sold him a specific one that she was peddling but it seemed to me that he ordered one that he was familiar with, a favorite.  Their conversation shifted to other people that worked in the vicinity and whether or not either of them had attended various people's parties.  Nobody had filed in line behind me so I didn't have the type camaraderie one can often easily acquire in situations like this.  I was on my own.  The guy was leaning over the counter about halfway at this point.  I noticed because it was somewhat difficult to do.  The counter was rather low, as all Starbucks counters are, and he was having to let his legs fall out behind him to make anything that he was doing seem normal or natural.  

He paid with a $20. His drink came to just over $5, so he handed her another single dollar bill after she had rung it up.  This confused her a little bit so he told her the appropriate amount of change to give him back, which was $15 and some change.  He asked for three fives, or a ten and a five, or fifteen ones.  This confused her further and it started to become obvious that he knew he was losing his grip on whatever flirtation they might have been sharing.  He was the sharper of the two, though not by much.  Once she had counted back his money he was standing straight up.  It became a little more obvious why he was prostrating himself on the Starbucks counter. She was slightly taller than him.  She bounded off to make his drink and two people filed in line behind me. They continued their conversation while she made his coffee but she suddenly seemed to recognize that she was working, there was coffee to be made.

I have no idea why she was the only person working this morning. The place is often staffed with two or even three employees.  

Can I help you?

Oh, I didn't want a coffee. I just wanted to hear what you guys were talking about.

To say that she gave me a stare that stated simply that I am a creepy old man would be an understatement.  I hadn't exactly developed any solidarity with the people behind me as they had just come up.  I was on my own and somehow now I was the asshole.  The kid was still at the other end of the counter drinking his morning chocolate-caramel frozen desert coffee with a spoon.  A pimple trapped in plastic, soon to be freed.  He didn't hear any of this but he clearly seemed to be waiting around, hoping to slow down the economy further before he took off for good.     

Um, no, I'm kidding.  I'll have a ....

It was after ordering that I realized that I come in here to get a coffee all of the time and it makes no sense to upset the staff.  She neither got my joke, nor did she think that she was doing anything wrong.  She's been trained to recognize creepy old men and she knows to take note of who they are, and what their patterns are, in the event that a police report needs to be filed.  

So, then there was lunch.

To save money I often eat at a sandwich from a supermarket deli.  I've written about it here before.  There are several employees there and some of them are quite nice and engaging, while others are surly and put little care into sandwich making.  I don't blame them, I merely state it as a fact.  

There's one guy in particular who seems to have a somewhat managerial air about him. At least he seems to wish to engage customers in a vaguely corrective manner, disguised as information.  He has attempted to do that to me a few times in the past.  I ordered a stock sandwich from the placard menu that hangs above the glass divider, a sandwich I have had many times.  It's an easy sandwich to get along with, not messy, and reasonably light.  The ingredients of the sandwich are listed next to the picture.  I know them well.

I gave the only instruction, that I wanted "light mustard" on the sandwich.  I state this each and every time because if you don't then you will get a sandwich that tastes only of vinegar.  Their enthusiasm for condiments knows little restraint.  Then, as I always do, I got myself a cup of water from the soda machine.  By the time that I came back, only a few seconds later, I noticed that there was an enormous glop of mayonnaise on one side of the bread.  

"I didn't want mayonnaise.  I asked for light mustard."

He responded, "When I ask you what sandwich you want, you say light mayo. I think you are confused, my friend."

"I'm not confused, friend. I know the difference between mayonnaise and mustard. I order the same sandwich all of the time and I never order mayo with it.  I don't eat mayonnaise."

"Then why you order it this time?"

"I didn't and this isn't the first time you've made this mistake.  I eat here quite often, as you know, and you've made this same mistake before.  So, for the future, to avoid confusion, you can know that I don't eat mayonnaise.  Also, not that it matters, but that wouldn't even qualify as 'light mayonnaise', would it?"

"You didn't ask light mayo, you ask mayo."

"You weren't listening then and you're not listening now.  The ingredients of the sandwich are listed on the board here.  If you look at it you'll see that mustard is an ingredient and mayo is not.  You can use this board for future reference if you need to.  But if you're going to need me to list all of the ingredients that I don't want on my sandwich then I'm going to need a longer lunch break.  But for now, and for the future, please just make the sandwich that I order, as shown above, but with light mustard, friend."

"Ok, you no need to be angry.  Mayo is your friend too."