Okay — I’ll be the first to admit that when it comes to Me and the Real World, the obvious just isn’t. My eyes are all fucked up — I literally don’t “see the world” the way most human beings do. It’s a long story.
And my brain has been ruined by exposure to hard-core philosophy: seven years of college education wasted. What passes for common sense among the sensible majority chaps my ass on the way in and out. It makes daily interaction very challenging. I unwittingly upset a lot of innocent people, and walk away shaken and bruised.
It’s why I drink. And No, that doesn’t help. (See what I mean?)
The first time I wander into a coffee shop is years and years after the business model has been up and running. I find the counter — no small task; remember, I’m damn near blind at the time, and have been driving on the highway for hours — and ask for a large black coffee. The counter person hands me an empty Styrofoam cup, takes my money, hands me my change, and walks away.
I stand there for 6 minutes trying to attract the attention of somebody, which I eventually do only by waving the cup in the air and shouting for help. A manager type hustles over and asks me what’s wrong.
I ordered coffee. I even paid for it. All I got was an empty cup. This one, see? What did I do wrong? Where’s my coffee?
We stare at each other from distant planets.
He explained, somewhat incredulously, that I was supposed to pour my own coffee. The way it works, see, is they give me a cup and I walk over to a table where there are no less than 5 separate urns with different blends of coffee (each one marked!), not to mention sweetener, creamer, cup lids, napkins, stirrers, etc. Didn’t they have this where I’m from?
I didn’t know any of this. How the fuck was I supposed to know? Is it written some place? Did I miss a memo? Is it asking too much for the counter-cretin to explain this when it takes my money and hands me an empty fucking cup when I ask for coffee? And where the fuck are these goddam coffee urns, anyway? (Remember, I’m blind.)
Okay — I have dozens of real-life stories just like this one. You should see me at the self-check-out lines. The drive-in windows. The toll booths and self-parking machines. The places where you order here, pay there, and pick up someplace else. I have stopped the world with my combination of incompetence and insistence on explanations.
I know going in that Starbucks has its own language and culture. But this isn’t my first time any more, and I know that I want a middle-sized, plain unadorned cup of coffee. I’m ready. I order.
The androgynous counter person with shaven head and matching nostril rings asks me something about the “depth” of my coffee. I am lost. Utterly. Coffee has “depth”?
Just fill it. Or give it to me, I’ll fill it myself. Point me to the urns.
It turns out (s)he means there are two blends available — one stronger than the other. I am not clear which one has more “depth,” but I request the stronger of the two.
“Okay!” (s)he says. “You need room?”
I point my face at this question in total oblivion. I narrow my eyes. Room? I look over my shoulder into the establishment in search of empty chairs and tables, of which there are many. I explain I will take my coffee outside, thank you. If I ever get it.
Ha! Silly me from the Planet Your Anus! “Room” means, do I want the cup filled to the brim, or do I need “room”(!) left for added milk/cream/soy water/tit juice/rodent droppings or something else I never even conceived of! “Room” in the cup! Damn!
Tears fill my eyes. I just can’t keep up. All I want is a cup of coffee. All I EVER want is a cup of coffee. Why is this so complicated?
Then: a miracle. “I’m sorry, man,” says the, well, the Being. “I never even walked into a Starbucks until I started working here. It’s weird. It’s a whole new language, a whole culture……I had to study to get this minimum wage job. I don’t talk like this, really, I don’t. Here.” He hands me a full cup brimming with beautiful dark coffee. “Just take it. Don’t say another word. It’s not your fault. Have a great day.”
I accept the cup –(s)he even added the lid (something else I can’t do — get it on, get it off, try to drink through the little tiny hole that burns your lips off when you try –) and totally stunned, take it outside to a table, away from the air conditioning and the nerds glued to their phones and iPads.
Exhausted and brain dead, I sit my ass down and make my way through about two thirds — Starbucks coffee is really good, almost as good as Dunkin Donuts — before it’s time to make my way to my next appointment. Now I need to pee. No, I’m not venturing my way back in to find, then try to figure out how the toilet works. Too complicated.
I head back to my car, take one last swallow, pour out the remainder, and pis into the cup. Fortunately, I don’t quite fill it.
Hmm. What did I do with that cup? I better check the car tomorrow. If I can find it.