Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Cold shot

I grabbed a seat in the comfy chair at Starbucks after retrieving my daily double espresso.

There was a big fellow sitting in the neighboring comfy chair listening, I presume, to voicemail message on his mobile phone. When he was finished, he gave a squint-eyed looked at my demitasse.

"What are you drinkin," he asked

"Dopio espresso."

"That's what I thought," he replied. "Don't see many people order that drink. Now you need to drink it like the Italians do, all in one gulp."

That led to a conversation about Italy and our travels there. Turns out the roundish, baldish, oldish guy's parents were from Napoli and he still has a brother living there.

I was enjoying the conversation, reminiscing and comparing travel notes, when the signore gave another squint-eyed look, this time at the young Starbucks employee who was sweeping the floor nearby. The dustpan he was using was making a small but noticeable racket.

"Hey. Excuse me," the Signore said. No response from the sweeping .

"Hey! Buddy! Why don't you go work somewhere else so we can talk here," said the Signore.

The barrista shot him a cold-cup-of-coffee stare, but then tried to laugh off the insult. "I know," he said. "I'll be done in a minute."

"No. Go and finish up somewhere else and then come back" was the reply.

"I'm sorry sir. I'm just doing my job. If I go somewhere else it will just disturb them. I'm working my way through the store."

"But I don't see why you can't give us a minute to finish talking," the Signore said.

"I'm sorry sir. This is my job. You can talk to my manager if you want," said the barrista.

He moved on with his sweeping and was soon in another part of the coffee shop. Signore and I continued to talk for a few more minutes before I finished my dopio and he needed to leave. But I have to admit, my estimation of him had fallen a few notches and the conversation wasn't as enjoyable.

You can really tell a lot about someone by the way they treat people in the service industry.

Before I left, I made sure to go talk to the barrista and slip him an extra buck. Not a ton of money, but then money wasn't the point. I just wanted the guy to know that some of us believe in being decent to each other.

UPDATE: Here's the rest of the story...

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  1. Nice post. You're not the only one. Check this out:

  2. When I see people behaving badly (like the fellow you witnessed in Starbucks), I shock myself when I realize that this is how such people behave in public, where they are on their best behavior. If they are rude or abusive in front of strangers, can you imagine what they are like at home, with wife, husband, children? Yikes!




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