It is not because I am lactose intolerant that I don’t “do” dairy. I don’t eat cheese, drink milk, or indulge in ice cream because dairy products just nauseate me. Perhaps it’s psychosomatic, or maybe I’m just psychotic, but the point is, I don’t like dairy, so I don’t “do” dairy. Plain ‘n’ simple.
I had been using dairy half and half in my iced coffee, trying to trick myself into thinking that if I didn’t really think about it, I could just pretend it wasn’t in there. But of course I thought about it. And thought about going the plain black route, which was not a very appetizing option. So what was a girl to do? Turn to soy, of course. So I did, in the form of creamer, because regular soy milk, like dairy skim milk, just didn’t provide the sexy creaminess that is so very important to me.
The coffee I drink is usually Red Sea blend from Whole Foods. Made at home. I avoid Starbucks like the plague that it is (I have mentioned that here and here), even though there is one just down the block and another around the corner and another in my closet. There may as well be one in my toilet, because the likelihood of my drinking their scorched swill is about as likely as … well … never mind.
But yesterday I caved in. I was with someone other than myself, and it was her choice. So I followed her into one on the Upper West Side (with a view of the intersection where I saw Alan Alda several weeks ago) and approached the counter. I won’t get into how the other customers were obnoxious, oblivious, overwrought jackasses. That’s just a given. But I will touch on one tiny thing that pisses me off like there’s no tomorrow, which is something I wished on the guy behind the counter when I ordered my drink. I not only wanted there to be no tomorrow for him but no 5:46 p.m. That thing, ladies and gentlemen, is incompetence.
My order was this: A ‘tall’ iced coffee with soy milk. Not only did the guy look at me like I just said, “Yes, I’ll have the pl3fr9*yk-2J{c on whole-wheat pita, please … and a side order of your sister’s spleen!” but he just stood there gaping at me as if I said it in Ubby Dubby.
Soy milk?” he said. “We don’t have soy milk.”
“Your sign says you do,” I said, directing his dumbstruck attention to the board just behind and above his head.
“I don’t know …” he said, and started to ring up my very complicated order.
“Well, I only want the coffee if you have soy milk.” Blank stare on his part. Fingers hovering above the cash register keypad and then pressing something on it. Somewhere in all the excitement, a plain black iced coffee appeared on the counter between us. “In other words, if you don’t have soy milk, I don’t want the coffee.”
The heads I grew now numbered a staggering 14.
The coffee on the counter between us was embarrassed. It looked up at me plaintively. Shuffled its feet. Looked down at its hands and sighed. I don’t want to disappoint you, Madam, I could almost hear it say politely and without confusion.
After about ten minutes of confusion — the details of which I will not include because even as I remember them now, I want to run up to 67th and Columbus and do bad things to everyone involved (Note to FBI: I’m just kidding. Kidding.) — I had my tall iced coffee with soy milk. I felt a little sorry for it for not being anywhere close to what I make myself at home. It wasn’t its fault that Starbucks’ coffee blows and the whole episode left such a bad taste in my mouth that it even overpowered the burnt taste of the coffee, so I didn’t insult it to its face. Or insult the employees of Starbucks to theirs. I have some standards, after all.
The whole exchange was just so replete with incompetence. If a business is going to offer something, is it so unreasonable to expect that the employees know what’s being offered? It’s a good thing the Starbucks employees I encountered yesterday weren’t the brain surgeons I assured them they didn’t have to be (not to their faces, no, but to my friend, who witnessed most of the excitement for herself), because I’d hate to see what would happen if, next week when I go into the hospital for a simple lobotomy (I get one every few months, like a haircut; my brain just keeps regenerating, like a starfish), I’m afraid I’d come away without my appendix. (Which would only be fitting, given that an appendix is about as useless as the Starbucks employees.)
So now when I never return to a Starbucks again, it will not be just because the coffee is wretched and I prefer to support small businesses. It will also be because I am incompetence intolerant. And I do not “do” incompetence.