“Hey man, visitors,” said the one Starbucks worker to the other. The other laughed, but didn’t turn around.
We were the only customers. No one in front of us. No one behind us. I was in D.C. with RG Daughter, and after a long day, we were tired and desperate for caffeine.
“Seriously, man. Customers!”
“Oh, hey!” said the other worker to us, finally turning around. He made his way over to the register, stared down at the keyboard and then looked back up at us, grinning. “Hey!” His co-worker had vanished.
We waited for a second.
“Hey,” he said for the third time.
RG Daughter and I did the unspoken “Don’t look at me and I won’t look at you, but what the hell?” thing with each other.
“Hey,” RG daughter said back, with a little attitude. The worker grinned some more, and answered back, “Hey.”
“Okay,” I said to her, figuring he wasn’t going to ask us for our order–ever. “Just tell him what you want.”
“Do you want something to drink?” asked the worker. Um….
RG Daughter glanced at me, and looked back at the worker, smiling the smile of someone trying hard not to laugh. “Grande skim iced latte, please.”
The worker looked at the keyboard again, then fumbled around doing some sort of mystery chore. About 30 seconds later, he held up a plastic cup. “Is this the cup?” he asked, still grinning.
RG Daughter and I looked at each other and willed one another not to laugh.
“Yeah, that looks just like the cup,” she said quite seriously.
The worker regarded the cup for just a second, then walked over to the espresso machine. He looked at all the knobs and containers of milk and touched a tiny metal pitcher. Then he just stood and stared at it all, again. A full minute later, having accomplished nothing more, he looked at RG Daughter and asked–I swear to God–“Do you know what goes in it?”
Yes, we lost it. I burst out laughing. RG Daughter was almost crying from trying so hard earlier not to laugh. “Do you know what goes in it?” she asked me.
“Well, uh, you know, espresso and milk and ice?” I asked her, giggling.
The worker thought this was hilarious as well, and he joined in our fun, laughing along with us. “Yeah, is that it? I mean the milk or….” Ha. Ha. Ha.
“Oh my God, is he toasted or something?” RG Daughter asked me, still laughing.
“You think???” I laughed back.
The worker looked us full in the face, his eyes as red as if he’d been swimming in chlorinated water with his eyes open for three days. You think?
As he continued to laugh, the worker fiddled with the espresso machine, poured milk into the cup he’d shown us, and somehow managed to produce an iced coffee-looking beverage.
“Taste it,” he said to RG daughter as he handed it to her. “I mean, do you think this is what it should look like? But I want you to taste it before you pay for it, you know, to make sure it’s right.”
Now, THAT was customer service. RG Daughter giggled as she took a sip, and I laughed down at the floor. “Yep, it’s fine,” she laughed, and had to walk away from the counter so as not to get so hysterical that she would choke on the latte.
The worker walked back to the register. He poked various keys on it, which resulted in much beeping. I tried to hand him my five.
“I can’t do it,” he said, no longer laughing, but clearly perplexed as to why the machine kept beeping. He touched more keys. The machine beeped some more. “I can’t” he repeated.
“Can’t make the register work?” I asked.
“I can’t,” he almost cried, which would have made his roadmap eyes even worse. “Just take it. It’s yours.”
“The latte? Are you sure?” I asked him.
“I can’t do it. So just take it. You know, it’s free today.”
Oh, okay. Like a personal free latte Friday or something. Great!
My apologies to Starbucks stockholders, but I accepted this unexpected comp. Yeah.