BY MYRNA DALY
Copyright is held by the author.
“MAKE THAT a half Mocha Madness, half Crema Suprema.” I’d waited to step into line when there were no familiar faces on duty, but I’d called it wrong.
“You want a shot of Vanilla Bean again?”
Again? That sounded like an accusation. “Yes, please. Just a shot.” Now I recognized the guy across the counter. I stared at the logo on his green canvas apron and refused to meet his eyes.
“Lady, are you sure? Because we just went through this with your Cappuccino/Macchiato experiment.”
“I know, sorry, but it turned out great in the end.” My voice had the shrill pitch of a whining three-year-old. He pressed his advantage.
“And before that it was Mango Ice versus Peach Smoothie. Both of which you jettisoned in favour of Passionflower.” He leaned toward me in a semi-confrontational stance, palms spread across the counter, supporting an athletic frame. “Sometimes I think you should just come back here and mix your own specialties,” he said, and made no move to fill my order.
A familiar flutter warned me to check my watch. It’s one of those fitness things for serious runners, which is not me, but the alerts have made a world of difference in my crazy life. Sure enough, my heart rate was edging up — there went another bleep — and so was my blood pressure.
This was my second time here today, a big mistake. His body language was making me nervous, and deep breaths weren’t helping. I can tell when they’re about to call the manager. Another thing I’ve learned is, always pay with cash. And don’t join those Frequent Buyer clubs, never mind the discounts. Stay out of their computer system, that’s my rule. They have red flags for customers they don’t like, I’m sure of it. As if it’s not their own fault, really, for throwing all these choices at you. I stood tall and repeated my order.
“Half Mocha Madness, half Crema Suprema, shot of Vanilla Bean.” There, damn it, I thought. Fill my order and I’ll be out of here. “No, wait.” I could hear the quiver in my voice. “That’s going to be too creamy. It needs to be stronger, bolder. Could you cut back a bit on the Crema Suprema and deepen it with Caffe Negro?”
He shook his head and held up a container lid. “The thing is, lady, there isn’t enough room here to write your incredibly detailed instructions, plus the order changes, before I send it over there.” He indicated a young woman in a spattered green apron standing next to a humming mixer.
By now the line was getting restless. Eyes rolling, toes tapping, overly loud cell phone voices complaining, “It’s that crazy woman. She’s in here again.”
I’m not crazy, but I was on the verge of a full-blown panic attack and had to fight the urge to bolt. “Let’s work this out,” I said, holding my voice steady. “I’ve got exactly four hours before my in-laws arrive and . . .”
He looked up at the clock, then over at his colleague at the mixing counter. A look of solidarity shot between them and off came their aprons. Howls of protest erupted from the line that extended halfway to the door.
“Wait!” I begged. “Cancel that . . whatever that was. You’re right, it’s too complicated. The thing is, I’ve got Amaretto in my entry and it’s a mess. Just give me some Cinnamon Spice and a . . .” I glanced at the menu on the wall behind him. “And a quart of Dulce de Leche.”
He smirked. He actually stood there in his Keep Portland Weird T-shirt and smirked. “No,” he said. “I’m not going to do that. You need help, lady. Like, a consult. Obviously you don’t understand the theory behind our product line or you’d never even consider Cinnamon Spice with Dulce de Leche.”
That did it. I was finished, defeated. I’ve now been refused service in every store in this stupid, customer-unfriendly chain. Then, just as I turned to leave an idea struck. I ducked back into the front of the line and smiled at my last hope, the nice young man tying on his apron for the next shift.
“Could you help me pick out some wallpaper, please? And then we’ll get to the paint colours.”
An Oregon girl at heart, Myrna Daly returned to her home state after spending several years in the Midwest. In Portland, she was a freelance writer and editor, with articles published in national and regional magazines. Journalism led to fiction, as getting to the heart of the story sharpened an appreciation for the compelling life stories of the people she met. Her interest in fiction centred on crafting mysteries, possibly influenced by working on her family farm in Washington County, where she plotted murderous attacks on invasive blackberries.