I worked as a waitress and a bartender for over a decade and so I know it instinctively: the precise giveaway glint in the eye of the person on the other side of counter that indicates that he hates you with a searing hot fury. It’s there even as he pleasantly murmurs hello and inquires about your breakfast sandwich preferences, meanders behind the doors to look for vanilla syrup replacement. He’ll be nice to you, totally acceptably nice. His voice is almost chirpy above the indiscernible menace. He takes delight in the indiscernability, in fact, but he also knows when you’re on to him. And that makes the game even more pleasurable.
Mornings have been the biggest adjustment. Without question, the best part of working from home is the ability to roll out of bed and straight to the computer with fuzzy teeth and an unseen cowlick. These last few months I’ve been fumbling in the dim light of the bathroom, de-puffing my eyes and curling errant frizzles of hair, tiptoeing in the 5:30 deep freeze as to not wake up my snoring household. Starbucks, a two and a half minute drive from our house, is on the way to the office and a salve for the jarring frigidity of the mornings.
The same man is always visible in the eye of my headlights as I pull into the empty parking lot right as the store opens. He has curly hair, thick calves, and he’s always wearing shorts.
“Hello!” he says and I see the glint. I eye him sideways and I chirp back.
“What can I get for you this morning?”
“I’ll have a grande vanilla latte please, non fat milk.”
“And something for breakfast?”
I do, and I change it up every morning because I am pregnant and sometimes the baby needs an oat fudge bar.
“I think a spinach feta wrap today.”
“Excellent.” He busies himself with the nuclear microwave and then returns swiftly. He wonders what it would be like to push me outside on to the patio, just a little bit, not to maim me really but maybe just a bruise.
“Can I get your name for the cup please?”
“Kristin.” I respond just as brightly, just as falsely.
Every day for the last 35 work days, at 6:17 am, he has asked me for my name for the cup. I am the only one in the Starbucks, besides the silent grey-haired man on his laptop in the comfy chairs, the one who nods to me knowingly when I open the door.
Large Short Wearing Secretly Angry barista guy writes it down grimly, K-R-I-S-T-E-N and the espresso dude puts it on the bar when it’s full, and smiles at me wordlessly. I take my cup, wondering if tomorrow Tall Short Guy will ask me for my name again, or if he’ll remember.
He never remembers. On the 37th day, I tell him my name is Sarah. Unfazed, he writes dutifully on my cup and I see the shadow of a satisfied smirk. He knows he’s getting to me.
On the 38th day, I look him dead on and respond to his question.
“Gerald,” I say,” Gerald.”
Totally, blissfully nonplussed, he writes “Gerri” on my cup in large black Sharpie scrawl. I tell him I don’t want any breakfast.
This morning, I drove to Tim Horton’s for a super shiteous drip coffee.
“I’ll have a large double double please.”
The drive through lady did not ask my name.