Friday, November 2, 2012

One of THOSE Weeks...

Have you ever had one of those days, weeks, months and/or years?

Where it seems that you are one of the last sane, rational people on the Earth?

Where it seems that one is living through a "Moron Apocalypse"?

Imagine this. You wake up one morning and everything seems perfectly fine. You get ready for work, you're not exactly happy about going to work, but what the heck, it pays the bills.

You get on the road and head to your favorite coffee emporium to get your morning caffeine boost. You're used to the same folks being behind the counter every morning. The folks who know exactly what you get every morning. No need to go through the whole "Good morning. Welcome to insert name of your coffee place here. How can I help you?"

No, normally you just walk in, everyone says "Hi" and they get you your coffee of choice. The same one you get every day. Every. Day. You pay, you say "have a good day" and you're back on the road. Back on your way.

At my favorite coffee emporium, there are two people who work there who are, shall we say, less than optimal when it comes to customer service. One of them, the younger one, is nice enough, she's just not what you'd call Mensa material. Now don't get me wrong, she gets me my coffee with no problems at all. When she is properly supervised, she's great. You just don't want her flying solo or, heaven forbid, to be in charge.

Now the other individual, who I absolutely dread seeing behind the counter, is another story altogether. She's the older one. I'm not even sure she is of the same species as the rest of us. Now I refer to these two individuals as the Dysfunctional Duo.

To really explain this, I need to go back in time a bit. Not exactly a tangent, more of a flashback.

Back in the summer I headed to my favorite purveyor of caffeine delivery beverages on a lovely Saturday morning. Normally the place is kind of crowded on weekends. I don't mind. It's Saturday and I'm in no hurry. I'm, while not exactly content to wait in line, not very perturbed to wait my turn.

So I walk in. There are two new people on Team Coffee. But the veteran members of Team Coffee are also there, things are moving along just fine. Then I note that the younger newbee, while somewhat slow and unsure of herself, is operating as well as can be expected for someone new on the job. I'm hoping that when it's my turn, she'll be the one to wait on me.

Of course not.

It's now my turn. I'm faced with the older newbee. She is staring at me. I'm trying to determine just what the heck is going on. Isn't she supposed to ask me what I want? Is she trying to communicate with me via telepathy? Is it my move?

Now all of this went through the old brainbox in far less time that it takes to relate the story. Eventually, I realized that this lady was staring at me the same way a cow would look at someone. Not exactly all there if you know what I mean. So I'm a reasonable guy. At this point I politely seize the initiative.

Me: "Hi, I'd like a large ice coffee with milk and three Splenda please."

Older Newbee: <Blank Stare>

Me: <Puzzled look>

Older Newbee: <Blank Stare>

Me: "Uh, a large ice coffee..."

Older Newbee: "Decaf?"

Me: "Uh, no. A large ICE coffee. With MILK. And 3 Splenda. Please."

Older Newbee: <Grabs a large ice coffee cup and heads for the ice coffee dispenser. Fills the cup and then turns to me.> "How do you want that?"

Me: "Milk, three Splenda." <Holding up three fingers as a visual aid.>

Older Newbee: "Cream and sugar."

Me: "No. Milk and 3 Splenda."

Older Newbee: "Milk and two Equal."

Me: "Grrrr. Three Splenda."

Older Newbee: "Do you want milk or cream?"

Me: <Patience exhausted> "MILK!!!!"

Older Newbee: <Blank stare>

Me: <Extremely annoyed, nearly homicidal maniac stare back.>

Older Newbee: <Completes the coffee preparation and walks back to the counter. Hands me my coffee and starts to walk away.>

Me: "Aren't you forgetting something?"

Older Newbee: "What?" (And we're back to, you guessed it, Blank Stare)

Me: "Is the coffee free today?"

Older Newbee: "No."

Me: <Blank stare>

Yes, it was quite an adventure that day. Now flash forward to the next weekend.

I walk in, the place is packed. The line is nearly out the door. Then I notice that Younger Newbee and Older Newbee seem to be the only employees present. Oh no. This does not look good.

But again, it's a Saturday and I'm in no particular hurry. Besides, this might be fun to watch. In a sick, kind of perverted way. Kind of like slowing down to see a car crash. Something I never do. Those that do this are very high on my list of People Who Piss Me Off. (That's the PWPMO list for those of you at home keeping score.)

As the line moves with glacial slowness, I notice people come to the door, start to open it, notice the line and then turn away. Most of them are shaking their heads and saying something. I'm not a great lip-reader but I get the impression that most of them are going home to make fudge.

As I observe this disaster unfolding, I notice that younger newbee appears to have taken the helm. While older newbee utilizes a lot of Blank Stare Fu. Eventually younger newbee announces that she will make everyone's coffee and take all of the food orders. While older newbee is relegated to preparing the food. (Apparently older newbee is quite capable of following the directions given to her by a computer. Next time she waits on me perhaps I should bring a laptop. Then I will type my order on the laptop and then show her the screen.)

Next thing you know, there are about twenty (empty) coffee cups of various sizes lined up on the counter. Older newbee is frantically trying to fulfill food orders. Younger newbee has completely lost track of who gets what size coffee, what flavor, everything is chaos. Things are not going well.

At this point, a manager-type walks in. Stops, looks around with a look of impending doom and mutters, "Oh my God, I leave for fifteen minutes and things go completely to hell." Then she dashes around behind the counter and starts organizing. Begins to bring order out of chaos. Sort of the coffee emporium version of the big bang, only sped up like a gazillion times.

As orders are filled and people leave, I hear managerial-type ask younger newbee what happened. Younger newbee explained that she thought things would go smoother if she made the coffee, took the orders and let older newbee do the food orders. The following ensued:

Managerial-type: "Is that how we trained you to do things?"

Younger Newbee: "No"

Managerial-type: "So why did you do it?"

Younger Newbee: "I thought it would be a good idea."

Managerial-type: "Don't think. We don't pay you to think. If we did, you would not be making much money. Do what we trained you to do. Okay?"

Younger Newbee: "Okay"

What you might call a "teaching moment".

Flash forward to today. I head into the coffee emporium and there is Younger Newbee. I nearly panicked and fled. I looked (and felt) kind of like the gazelle when he first spots the pride of lions lying in wait. But as I hesitated, it was too late. Younger newbee greeted me and asked me what I wanted. It went well, no delays. But I couldn't help but feel a <Blank Stare> boring into me. I shudder to think of it.

No, the "Moron Apocalypse" hasn't quite started yet. But they're lurking out there. Waiting.


  1. Heh. Well, look at the Two Newbees situation as cheap entertainment, Abbot and Costello style.

    I'm a coffee junkie, too. One of the BEST things about my last employment gig in SFO was the fact there was a Starbucks on the ground floor of my building. I built a wonderful relationship with the baristas there: they knew exactly what I wanted and served it up with a smile. I'd hit their store around 0630 every morning and comeback several times during the day... so much so that my third or fourth visit usually resulted in a "no charge... enjoy!" type o' comment. And well it should have: I dropped over ten bucks a day in that store.

    People tend to bad mouth Starbucks a lot but I really like 'em. I don't think I've ever had a bad experience at any Starbucks store... and I DEARLY miss not having one here on The High Plains o' NM. But every time I go up to ABQ... ;-)

    1. Oh indeed I view it as cheap (though occasionally annoying) entertainment. And just to be clear, I love Starbucks coffee. Though at heart (being a cheap bastard) I'm a Dunkin' Donuts man. But there's something about Starbucks coffee that just tickles my fancy and I'll drink it when I can. (Typically if someone else is buying! Heh.)

  2. I have been wating in hopeful anticipation for a post like this! Thank you....We have our resaturant in a small strip mall, 3 doors down from us is Dollar General. Yesterday I ventured out to pick up a few things. I thought I had walked into the proverbial 'alternate universe', one in which everyone has an IQ of say, 45. Nothing I didn't expect, so to counter this effect, I leave half my brain behind, that way I wont be tempted to sigh heavily, or mutter things like...'Geez is EVERBODY this stupid'. My absolute favorite p%&*-me-off comment usually occurs after the transaction is completed. I know the clerk will never say 'thanks' so I thank them and then they say " No Problem"...really? I feel like saying that I am so glad that it is no problem for them to do the job they get paid to do! I left the store thinking its like Night of the Living Dead, only more like Days of the Living Morons!...thanks for letting me rant & thanks for making me realize its not just me.

    1. Well Greg, glad I could oblige. You are not alone out there my brother, in the crusade against the stupid, the moronic and the ill-mannered. I kinda like the "alternate universe" thing. It is very much like entering another world!

      Intelligent people unite!

    2. in my selfish desire to tell my story, I neglected to say that you tell a great story! I keep coming back to because of your ability to make the story so real I feel like i was there with you. Thanks!

    3. Don't feel too bad. I enjoy your revelations of life in the Geezer State. You have carte blanche to relate those stories in this forum. Thread hijacks don't bother me, it's all about entertaining/enlightening the readers.

  3. I see some stand-up comedy in your future. This was pretty funny- sad, but funny. Great humor has come out of various comedians' interaction with service personnel. You've tapped into it with your airline and coffee purchases- I'm sure you buy lots of stuff so there's probably lots of material out there just waiting to be written.

    1. Thanks Tuna. Doing stand-up comedy would be a blast. For now I'll stick to my day job. Bills must be paid, etc. etc. But yes, there is lots of material which, no doubt, I will entertain you all with, eventually.


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