The price of convenient coffee

I recall having complained at some point in the distant past about the lack of convenient morning coffee options along my daily commute, as if the Fates were conspiring to withhold decent morning caffeine from me. Not long ago, though, I thought perhaps all my silent cursing, sky-directed fist shaking, and general whininess had paid off when I learned that the local grocery store was going to be leveled and rebuilt with a shiny new Starbuck’s inside. Sure, it wasn’t going to be my favorite coffee, but at least the place was on my way.

Unfortunately, it turns out that Fates just enjoy having a chuckle at me.

The new grocery, Starbuck’s included, has been open roughly two weeks now. Realizing of course the no one wants coffee made on the dreaded Opening Day, I delayed my visit until day three of operations. I probably should have waited a little longer.

When I strolled up to the kiosk counter bright and early, a trio of fresh faces looked up at me from the Starbuck’s Employee Manual. Cold tendrils of fear shot up my spine, but I pressed on, undeterred. They took my order without hesitation, displaying not even the slightest worry over my beverage of choice. Apparently the Iced Americano button on the order screen is easily found. So my concerns were soothed momentarily, but when the cash register drawer slammed shut with a cha-ching, the espresso magician repeated my order and then looked back at the lead trainee the Blank Questioning Stare of Doom.

In case I’ve never been specific about my coffee preferences, my drink of choice is a large (in whatever terms the house wants to use, be that italian, latin, sandscrit, estonian, whatever) Iced Americano. It’s four shots of espresso, ice to fill, and a little water. That’s it. No syrups, no foams, no soy, low fat, nonfat, or goat milk variations. Espresso, water, ice. For a place with an espresso machine worth more than my car, it shouldn’t be rocket science.

The trainees conferred for a moment and then referred to their Key Ring of Coffee Beverage Mastery, a stack of recipe cards bound together on a binder ring. A few seconds later, apparently unable to find a section of cards labeled “Really Strong Espresso Drinks”, the Trio in Training all looked up at me as if I’d just ordered unicorn blood strained through a virgin’s gossamer silver hair, perfumed with fresh lavender. It was…awkward.

I decided that if I wanted them to hand across anything other than a simple latte, some direction was required. So I explained how to craft my morning elixir, step by step, carefully. Eventually a cup full of ice and dark bitter goodness was pushed my way. They all looked across the counter at me, expectantly. I inserted the straw, took a sip, nodded appreciatively, and prepared to go about my way. But the lead trainee then held up her hand, beckoning me to wait. Because I am nothing if not compliant, I did, and a moment later, she handed me a card for a complimentary coffee on my next visit and apologized profusely.

Ok, so it was a rough start, but it was only day three, and they did seem to understand that they needed to do better.

Yesterday, then, I decided to stop in and use my free drink card. Nothing makes a Wednesday better than free coffee, right? As I approached, though, I realized that two of three employees on hand were again, new people. Luckily, the lead trainee was still there, somewhat tempering my trepidation.

And so I placed my order, and once again, the barista working the espresso machine, a huge guy that I will always think of as Earl who almost certainly has experience rebuilding motorcycles, immediately looked down at the dreaded Key Ring of Coffee Beverage Mastery. I gritted my molars together and said nothing. At least it was a free drink, I said to myself.

Earl, who seems like a great guy to watch football and drink beer with, did manage to do a passable job of making my coffee without any direction from me. I found but one minor point of contention in his work. Earl, buddy, look, when I say, “iced”, that doesn’t mean I just want enough ice so that it won’t scald my precious, delicate mouth. I. Want. An. Iced. Beverage. You know, similar to an iced tea? Yeah, like that. Cold. With frozen pieces of water still intact in the fluid. Let’s work on that, shall we?

So, I finally got a Starbuck’s along my daily parade route. I thought that would solve a lot of my problems.

But it turns out I’m still struggling to get a decent coffee conveniently.

The Fates must be ROTFLTMAO*


*Rolling on the floor, laughing their mythical asses off

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