Coffee Noir

There I was--four feet from the barista, six feet from the drip, tap dancing a bit from the first cup of java and anxious for a refill. Between me and the joe stood a dame, a petite blondey with a soft spot for pink--the kind of girl you see in the pictures. She was bubbly and cute with curls that looped like a Coney Island thrill ride, a Shirley Temple Barbie doll without the figure or the height but with every bit of the plastic.

It was supposed to be quick, you see, her ordering a passion fruit something-or-other, me with a chuckle chatting up the barista for an extra shot, all of us on our merry ways, yadda yadda yadda, happily ever end. LOST.

But then it happened.

I didn't know it happened at the time, 'cause when it happened nothing happened. But now I realize: That's just when it happens--when you don't know it's happening.

The dame stood there for a second, like you do at a beanery, weighing her options--no doubt looking for a sign of the hue of each caffeinated confection. California as of yet requires only calories--not Pantone. Her standing-there-for-a-second turned into her standing-there-for-a-minute at which point my nerves got the best of me and I did what I always avoid doing in such situations. I made eye contact with the barista--nodded my head toward the dame.

"Ma'am," she said, placing her stained fingers in the folds of her green smock, "can I help ya with something?"

Then she said it. Her curls bounced and her dress swayed. She spoke with such naïveté and raison d'être and je ne sais qua: "What's good here?"

I felt the line moan. My own temperament wasn't much better. You see this wasn't your ordinary local, obscure coffee shop in some hipster-niche locale. The sign outside, from what I remembered, said "Starbucks Coffee Company." You might deduce from this alone that if you walk into said mystery shop--even if you're unfamiliar with their wares--that "what's good there" is likely their coffee. It would be more excusable, it seems, to haphazardly stumble into a local hambergery, say a McDonald's, and casually ask to speak with the chef. In that case you are at least excused by the simple fact that the name on the door does not imply what the purveyor has to offer.

The Tom-foolery might have been amusing had I not been jonesing for another hit and had the shenanigans ended right there. But the hoopla continued with the barista, a temptress on the road to perdition, baiting the blondey at every turn:

"Well, what do you like?" asked the baiter. 

"Um. Lots of things," replied the baitee, a rejoinder for the ages.

"I bet. What kinds of flavors do you like?"

"I like sweet and sour and bitter and salty and smooth."

"That last one wasn't a flavor, hun, but like your first dates we'll let it slide."


"Let's start with something easier. Do you want a hot drink or a cold drink, sweetheart?"

The question perplexed her like a blindfolded rat in a maze made of cheddar. She looked at the menu again as the line inched forward with baited breath and the audacity of hope and dreams from their fathers. 

After an endless six seconds she replied with cold confidence: "Cold." Her grin made of teeth and pride and posture statuesque. There was a collective exhale as the room felt one step closer to release like a prison orgy on parole week. 

Anticipating the question to come I flashed the barista a stern glance. Rarely had I been so forthcoming with this doll, but I wanted to avoid an easily avoidable disaster. My eyes did not prevail. She was having too much fun, you see, playing the dominatrix to our collective submissive. 

"Ok, dear, one cold drink coming up. Do you want that tall, grande, or venti?"

The man six fellas back started to a tie a noose with his shoelace as the rest reached for their iPhones and earbuds. There's only so much you can take before you have to end it all with a little NRP and Doodle Jump.

Not me, though, no, sir, not me. I was captured, raptured, enthralled by the spectacular du jour. I had gone from annoy to enjoy and would probably pass through the cycle again before it was all over. At least I had something for my blog. I sat Indian- Native-American-style on the floor and grabbed some metaphorical popcorn. I was in this to the end even if it hurt like a Star Wars fan at the sixth rerelease of Empire in 3D.

"What are those?" the blondey inquired.

"Those are sizes."

"Like small, medium, and large?"

"Like that, yes, but tall, grande, and venti."

"Why don't you call them small, medium, and large?"

"The same reason you get a 'Like It' at Cold Stone, sweety. What'll it be?"

"I always get a small 'Cookie Doughn't You Want Some' at Cold Stone..."

"Do you want a sm...tall?"

"I want a medium."

"A grande?"

"Yes, a medium grande."

It was clear now that this dame had some wits about her or at least she could play merry-go-round with the best of 'em. Had I underestimated her? Was she some sort of consumer mastermind out to throw a wrench in the corporate machine?

"I want a medium grande cold drink," she said with spunk. "To go."

"That's lovely, doll, but what kind of drink?"

"What do you have?"

"We have tea."

"That's it?"

"Yup." [This gal was tired of dominating.]

"What kind of tea?"

"We have black tea, grey tea, green tea..."

Then with a level of enthusiasm unmatched by man or clown she interrogatively exclaimed, "Do you have pink tea!?"

The lady eleven fellas back applauded.

"GRANDE PASSION FRUIT ICED TEA," the barista yelled to the bar. "Do you want sweetener?"

"Is it good?"

"It's sweet."

"Then ok."

"What kind of sweetener? Simple or sugar-free-all-natural-farm-raised-organic-certified-fresh sweetener?"

"What's the difference?"

"The first one is good. The second one won't make you fat."

"Oh. I don't want to be fat."


Blondey paid and bounced a few feet over to the bar where she waited like a dashboard hula dancer for her passion fruit something-or-other. I made my way four feet to the counter and held out my empty cup of dreams.

"A refill of joe, Lilly, black. And make it a strong one. After that I'm gonna need it."

"You and me both, Danny," she said with a sigh. "You and me both."