February 24, 2011

Why Bother?

 There is a bar, the sort you might see in any coffee shop. The counter is decorated with plastic wrapped baked goods, who knows how old, and a basket of fruit, the contents of which may not be any more fresh. There are four coffee pots, one house, two single origin, and the requisite decaf. They are specked with something that might be coffee stains, the name tags bent and withered. Behind the counter, there is an espresso machine. It has three group heads, two steam wands, and looks to be the only thing consistently wiped down in the building. It is cleaner than the man tending it, who looks carefully out of sorts, with hair and stubble that must have been put just out of place. He is detached, but comes something close to alive when a customer approaches the counter.

Barista: (Nods, leaning on the counter, head just raised) Hey.
Customer: (Scanning the menu board frantically, as if the drink names are being shuffled about) Umm -- Hi -- Yeah -- What's, uh...
Barista: (Looks at the board, raises eyebrows) What's what? We have a lot of stuff. I can pretty much make whatever besides.
Customer: Cool, yeah, cool. Um, well, I was thinking like something sweet. I really like coffee, ya know, but I just really want something sweet too, ya know?
Barista: (With more condescension than intended, but less than he would like) Okay. Well, we have all sorts of syrups. (Points to the board) There is a list. I can make a latte with any one of those, or any combination. Like I said, whatever.
Customer: (Like the menu is in French, unless he speaks French, in which case, like it's in Japanese) Umm... Well what's good? What do people usually get?
Barista: (Like the customer is five years old) Mochas are really popular. That's basically just a latte with chocolate. It can come with whipped cream too. A lot of people like vanilla lattes. Those are probably the most popular. But again, it really depends on what you like. We have all those syrups.
Customer: Well what do you like?
Barista: (Cynically, with all the condescension he can muster) Coffee, black. Sometimes a small cappuccino. I don't every get anything with syrup.
Customer: So should I get a cappuccino then, if that's you're favorite thing? Aren't those pretty sweet?
Barista: (Like a grade school teacher, tending to a petulant class) No. A cappuccino isn't sweet, unless you put stuff in to make it that way. It's espresso, with a little steamed milk, and a lot of foam. The ratio varies depending on how wet or dry you like it. But you don't want that.
Customer: So what do I want then?
Barista: (Pauses, then carefully) I don't know. You said something sweet. So a latte with whatever in it is probably your best bet. I don't know what flavors you like though.
Customer: I like French Vanilla -- Do you have that? I don't see it up there.
Barista: We don't, but I can make it. French Vanilla is just a fancy way of saying a vanilla and hazelnut mix, usually a 2 to 1 ratio.
Customer: Oh -- Then never mind. How about a mocha then?
Barista: (Relieved) Okay then. I can do that.
Customer: (It's just dawned on him) Do you have that in sugar free?
Barista: (Considering lying) No. We have vanilla, hazelnut, and caramel in sugar free. Not chocolate.
Customer: Huh. I probably shouldn't get that then. Lot's of calories. (A pause, like he's seeking confirmation that it's okay, you've earned a treat)
Barista: (Not humoring him) Probably. It is chocolate syrup.
Customer: Then how about a vanilla latte -- sugar free -- and with skim -- and decaf.
Barista: (Is that all?) Okay. (Ringing him up, then making the drink, focusing on the process so as to totally ignore the customer, who is watching expectantly)
Customer: Sorry to have to order something so difficult. (Laughs, fishing for an "it's okay")
Barista: (Not looking up) It's easy enough. (Shouldn't, but can't help himself) It's actually kind of got a name. "Why bother?"
Customer: Huh? What?
Barista: (Pours, hands the drink to the customer) Why bother.
Customer: (Not following) Why bother with what?
Barista: The name.
Customer: Why bother with the name?
Barista: Why bother is the name.
Customer: (Sips) ...
Barista: The drink is, all in good nature of course, sometimes called the "why bother", since, you know, you're kind of getting a neutered version of everything.
Customer: (Wants to be in on it, forced laughter) Oh -- I got it. Yeah, why would anyone order something called that?
Barista: Good question.

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