It’s a hot June afternoon and I’m travelling downstate with my joint custody dog Buster to meet a friend. But as I zip down the highway I realize I’m feeling tired so I decide to visit the biggest pusher of psycho-stimulant substances in the world – Starbucks. Let’s face it, next to these guys Pablo Escobar was running a lemonade stand.
Luckily I score a parking spot in front of a Starbuck’s inside a busy strip mall. Now it’s a hot day and I’m loath leaving Buster inside a car but I had the A/C blasting so the interior’s cool. Keeping the windows shut I lock the door and walk in to get my java fix. Besides, how long could it take?
Inside the cool shop I see there are two people ahead of me on line, a man buying a boat load of coffee beans and a large older woman wearing a dress that fits her like a potato sack. Feeling like a pastry I try walking up to the display case to peruse the goodies but the large woman’s blocking my way. “Excuse me ma’am,” I say politely.
The woman lets out a sibilant hiss of air and looks at me like I’ve crawled out from under a rock. Smiling at her disarmingly I note her flaming orange hair, granny spectacles, garish lipstick, over abundance of rouge and clumped orange mascara. If she was trying to look like The Joker she succeeded.
The woman’s response to my polite request is to block the display case with her rotund frame. Its then I realize her large body is throwing off a negative gravitational field, a repulsive force that shouts, “Stay away from me!” Undeterred I slip past her and begin perusing the cookies, scones and doughnuts I shouldn’t be eating. Her sense of space violated, the old woman lets out a large “Harrumph!” and moves her considerable body mass five inches to the right. Ignoring the negative vibe from the woman I look at the pastries and decide to get myself a double chocolate brownie. Man, all that sugar and caffeine’s going to hit my system like crystal meth.
When the old woman finally gets to the head of the line she instantly starts peppering the barista with a million questions. What’s a frappuccino? What does it cost? Can you make it low fat? How many calories are in it? After the worker patiently explains everything the woman starts rambling about her day, how hot it is outside and what a nice young man the barista is. As I listen to her talk I can almost see the words tumbling out of her mouth and scattering on the floor. Rapid and pressured speech? Bi-polar makeup and hyper vigilance about her personal space? Yep. This woman’s nuts.
I try being patient. Judging from the frumpy condition of her clothes going to Starbucks might be this woman’s only weekly treat. But as she drones on and on I feel beads of sweat start clustering on my back. Not because I’m hot mind you, because I’m worried about Buster. Glancing at my watch I see five minutes have already elapsed. Looking at my car I can see Buster’s still wagging his tail happily but soon the it’ll get too hot for him. And with my luck someone from PETA will come barging in demanding to know who left a dog outside in a car. Unconsciously I let out a loud sigh. Big mistake.
“Do you mind?” the woman says, looking at me over her granny glasses. “You have to wait like everybody else!” I just shake my head and shrug.
“Ugh,” the woman says, her hands fluttering as if she’s trying to fan away a foul stench. “I’m surrounded by freaky creepy people. Freaky creepy people!’ I guess she means me.
“What would you like to order ma’am?” the barista says, wearing a smile covering up his desire to scream.
“I don’t know. I don’t know.”
“What would you like, sir?” another barista, a pretty girl with brown hair, asks me. Thank God.
“A medium coffee and a brownie please,” I say.
As the pretty barista fills my order the old woman decides on a frappuccino and a scone. But when it comes time for the woman to pay there’s a mixup and my coffee gets rung up instead of her frappuccino.
“I didn’t order that!” the woman says loudly. I look at the barista and our eyes lock in server solidarity.
“We’ll just give you the frappuccino at that price ma’am,” he says, knowing if he tries voiding anything the old lady will flip.
“That’s very nice of you,” she says curtly.
“Just wait at the bar, please. Your drink will be right up.”
As the old woman waddles away I notice she doesn’t leave a tip. No shocker there. I pull out my wallet and pay for my order. “Have a nice day brother,’ I say, popping a dollar in the tip jar.
“You too,” he says, smiling knowingly.
Walking past the old woman I rapidly put cream and sugar into my coffee, replace the top and start heading for the door. As I do so the woman looks at me angrily, her stenciled eyebrows twitching like Herbert Lom from the Pink Panther movies.
At forty-two I’ve discovered my patience for stupidity is wearing thin. Maybe my years in mental health and waiting tables burned it out of me. Or maybe I’m just sick and tired of all the bullshit. And just as the old woman’s about to say something to me I fire up my thousand-yard stare and dump a dose of “Shut the fuck up” energy into her crazed eyes. The woman flinches; steps back and I walk towards the door, not feeling one iota of guilt. But before I can get out outside I hear her screech, “This isn’t what I ordered. This isn’t what I ordered!” Looking over my shoulder I see her hectoring the poor barista and notice his pleasant face has replaced by a blank stare. Bitch should have left a tip.
I get into my car, crank up the A/C and drive off with Buster no worse for wear. “Freaky creepy people,” I say. “The world’s full of them.”