Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Too clueless to order coffee

I hate feeling like an idiot just because I want a cup of coffee, but somehow that's exactly what happens every time I go to a coffee shop. I don't go out for coffee very often, and on the rare occasions when I do go, I don't always visit the same chain, so whatever one place calls a particular drink, it's sure to have a different name somewhere else.

Today I decided a frozen coffee drink sounded good, so I stopped into a coffee shop. And that's when the odyssey began. My first problem was figuring out which one is the frozen drink. Not just iced coffee, but the frozen one, like a pina colada.

Next, I wanted the lower fat and calorie version. But I've found that if you order some of the fancy drinks at some restaurants, they might not be available in a "light" version because they use a pre-made mix or flavorings or something. The only way to know what's available is to ask, which means you have to get to the front of the line and block the whole procedure for everyone behind you while you quiz the cashier. Since everyone else in line is in that coffee shop at least twice a day, they think you're a moron.

Then, I wanted decaf, but again not all drinks at all restaurants are available in decaf because of the pre-made mix situation. So you have to ask again.

Today, the coffee shop I was in was busy, so I decided to make things easy for everyone. I got to the front of the line and proudly said (without having to ask any questions), "Light Frappuccino, decaf, medium." I figured that covered it, right?

The cashier said, "What kind?'

That stumped me. I thought I'd made it clear. So I tried again. "Light Frappuccino. Decaf. Medium."

"What kind?" he asked again.

Huh? So I started throwing the words at him again, hoping to hit on the one that would satisfy him.



"Light, you know, with skim milk."

"Frappuccino. That's the frozen one, right?"

The whole time this is going on, I'm searching the menu board, hoping for some clue as to what he wants. No help there.

When he asked "What kind?" again, I looked away from the menu and just stared at him. I was out of ideas; I had nothing.

He clarified. "What kind? Caramel? Mocha?'

Ahah! "No, just plain," I said.

"Plain? Coffee flavor?" he asked.

I had thought that was self-evident. If I had wanted something besides coffee flavor, wouldn't I have asked? Ironically, I had specifically attempted to order plain coffee flavor because I thought that would be easiest. I didn't have to ask if caramel or mocha or coconut or whatever was available in decaf or light or any other specialty. But instead of trying to explain this to the cashier, I just said, "Yes, plain coffee flavor."

So despite my best intentions of not annoying the people in line behind me or irritating the cashier or making every other person in the restaurant think I'd just rolled off a turnip truck, I made a fool of myself in a coffee shop. Again. I can't remember a time when this didn't happen.

After considerable thought, I've figured out how to solve this problem. Coffee shops should have special lines for clueless people who don't go there very often. Maybe the cashiers in those lines could be trained preschool teachers who speak slowly, soothingly, and in small words. Everyone in the line would be prepared for long delays while each customer tries to figure out what's available and what they want and how to read a menu and what "vendi" means. I'd be willing to wait. In fact, I'd probably learn a lot just by being in that line.

BTW: Despite my embarrassment during the ordering process today, my drink was exactly what I wanted. I should write this order down so I can just hand it to the cashier next time I'm there. Of course, with my luck, he won't be able to read my writing and wackiness will ensue anyway.

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