June 4, 2011

A Reflection on a Reflection

There is an oft-entertained idea of role reversal, the hypothetical "How would you feel?" directed at persons perceived to be acting callously. At it's core, this is empathy, and it's a necessary human trait. Without it, one can't function in a social environment, and is labeled a sociopath. 
But there are degrees of empathy; I'm not concerned with the radical ends of the spectrum. Rather, I'm thinking about the apparently mundane, the connection between customer and barista. 

I'm both, of course, in many cases. But when I visit another cafe, that's an interesting dichotomy. It's a useful experience as well, one that shows me what to do, and what actions are probably best avoided. 

Today was not so instructive, but was, nonetheless, interesting. 

I left my shop, having closed, and stopped at another on the way back to my car. I ordered a large cold press, and called it such.

"So an iced americano?" the barista asked. The tone was familiar to me. It asked, but also told, said that I didn't have a clue what I was talking about. 

""No," I said, "I'd like to use cold press, not espresso." 

Her demeanor did not invite further comment. "If you get water with the cold press, it's an americano. Is that what you want?"

I smiled, let the snark pile up in the back of my mouth, and said "Sure."

"There's a lot of terminology," she offered, helpfully. 

There was so much I wanted to say then. I was tired, running on little sleep, a long shift, and no food in ten hours. "I know," I though. "Maybe that's why you can't keep it straight." Or perhaps: "Just give me the damn coffee; hold the failed attempt at a vocabulary lesson."

I said neither, of course, opting instead for a neutral grin and a diplomatic "Oh, I know."

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