I just wanted a cup of coffee.
The number one rule in the service industry is to keep your opinions on politics, religion, and race to yourself, not to vent or push your personal agenda on customers. Wondering where I’m going with this?
Last Monday I had to catch the ferry over to Salt Spring Island. With a looming deadline and not enough hours in the morning, I was so rushed that I didn’t have time for my precious morning coffee. I needed to make sure I got to the ferry early enough in case of an overload, so I quickly made coffee in my Bodum, though I didn’t have time to plunge it after pouring in the hot water. I simply shoved it into a bag with my breakfast and rested the bag on the floor in the back seat of my car for the seven-minute drive to the ferry, where I planned to wait for forty minutes, coffee in hand, and work on a chapter of my newest book.
My morning wasn’t turning out the way I wanted, though. I’ve had this idea stuck in my head that the obstacles that have been bombarding me as of late are my lot in life and that they’ll continue. You may know from my earlier blogs that I’ve been taking two steps forward, one step back lately, so as luck would have it, I ended up taking a corner a little fast. There’s a blind spot at a T intersection on the way to the ferry where people frequently speed, leaving you only a few seconds to make a left without getting T-boned. Yup, someone flew around that corner, so I floored it and made it through—yet I had heard a thunk and knew the Bodum had fallen over.
I was thinking it would be okay, as there was a lid, but when I pulled up for the ferry and parked, I opened the back door and righted the Bodum to find the coffee spilled all over the carpet of the back seat. Great! I grabbed the mug I had packed, lifted the Bodum, and poured, but nothing came out. I even jiggled it a bit, but not a drop. So, after I hiked to the ferry booth and bought my ticket, I had this brilliant idea to go into the coffeehouse on the corner across from the ferry. It was an older establishment with passable coffee, and inside, at two of the only three tables in the place, were two older men, likely in their late seventies or early eighties, just having a coffee and watching out the window.
The older gray-haired lady behind the counter had the cash register wide open and the tip jar dumped all over, counting out change. No other customers. I stood there, and she said nothing for a bit, then finally asked what I’d like. She didn’t look up, though, because she was still counting that coin.
“Do you have almond milk for a latte?” I asked.
She didn’t even look up when she said, “No, only soy and oat.”
Great! I thought. “I’ll take a latte with soy milk, medium,” I said, then waited again, because she was still counting that damn coin and dumping it into the cash drawer. She would take out a five and pocket it, then count more change, then pull out a ten and pocket it. Finally, she said to me that she was trying to make change.
“Okay,” was all I said as I glanced out the window, seeing how close the ferry was and wondering how long this was going to take.
She finally dumped the rest of the coin into the till and closed it before looking up at me. Now that we had that out of the way, maybe I would get my coffee. She asked again, did I want oat milk in my latte, and what size? Well, at least she had remembered it was a latte.
I replied, “No oat. Soy, please, and a medium.”
Her response: “Well, what’s wrong with oat? Have you tried it?”
In that second, I tried not to laugh, thinking of my spilled Bodum in the back seat and how ridiculous the question was. “Yeah, I’ve tried it but don’t like it,” I replied. “I prefer almond milk but will settle on soy.” I then gestured to the espresso machine in what I hoped she would recognize as a gesture to make the damn coffee and hurry up.
Instead, she went on to inform me that the owner (who I suspected was her) would not bring in almond milk for her customers because it’s not environmentally friendly, and she’s just one of many who are boycotting almond milk to force producers to stop making it. “Everyone should be doing it,” she said, “because of all the water it takes to produce almonds. You should try oat milk.”
I do believe my jaw slackened. WTF, I thought, so I just stared at her, thinking I just wanted coffee. I did glance again to the pre-made watered-down drip coffee, but I couldn’t make myself drink it, considering I’m proudly a coffee snob, and I thought fondly of my espresso machine at home. I reminded myself I could do the polite thing and not respond, except she was only just then getting around to making the latte, and I was still standing there, waiting.
“I don’t like oat milk,” I said, “and that’s absolutely ridiculous. Boycotting almond milk, seriously? That really is taking it way too far. I’m an environmentalist, and I’m responsible, but at the same time, I’m a realist.”
Yes, I really needed that coffee. Maybe I should have kept my mouth shut, considering I wasn’t getting the almond milk anyway.
Then she said, “But we have to teach the millennials to stop buying and drinking almond milk. This is being pushed down by the news and the media and the politicians. We can’t sustain how we’ve been going, and millennials are now getting scared. We also need to stop eating meat, because it produces too much CO2, and you can get enough protein from plants. The CO2 production from meat is too high…”
At this point, as I stared at her, still waiting for that damn coffee, I again reminded myself I could do the polite thing and say nothing, but no. I said, “Seriously? Well, that’s not my belief. If you choose to be a vegetarian, that’s a choice. I for one will never be, and that’s my choice. And the rest? Get real. I taught my kids to think for themselves, not to take anyone’s word for something, definitely not a politician or someone in a position of power. That position doesn’t make them right; it just makes them human. I teach my kids to do their own research and make their own decisions. So, how’s my coffee coming?”
Apparently she didn’t like that answer, but I’ve lost count of the number of people who’ve tried to push their views on me, from saying we have to stop traveling because it creates too large a footprint, to saying we have to stop using razors to shave our legs because they’re filling the landfills. I could go on.
As she poured the milk into the takeout cup—which, for a moment, I wanted to point out could end up in a landfill—she began talking again. “Well, this preaching is in fact scaring the millennials, and it’s supposed to scare them, because they have only twelve years left to live.”
Did I say anything else as she set my coffee on the counter? No. I simply took it and had a moment of wondering whether I had stepped into the twilight zone. I walked out of the coffeehouse, taking a sip of the latte, which wasn’t very good, and seeing the ferry docking.
And I said to myself, Next time, pack a damn thermos so that even if it falls over, at least you’ll still have coffee.
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