Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Trouble at the Coffee Shop


Maury, my coffee shop friend, has been both agitated and reclusive lately. I think this is because a new employee is interfering with his wa.

The new guy is a young man in his mid-thirties who is way too talkative early in the morning and intrusive in other ways. Maury and I are similar insofar that neither of us is particularly social in the morning. At seven a.m. I want to read my paper and be left alone, as, I suspect, does everyone else there, except for maybe Debbie Reynolds

Ah, Debbie. It’s not her real name but it should be. She is a tiny and lovely woman in her 80s, a bewigged fan of every team in the Washington area. Since the pro football, baseball and hockey players have not distinguished themselves this year, Debbie is a sad fan, and she’ll talk to anyone about the demise of sports in DC. Maury, I’ve noticed, by and large ignores her, though he does it very diplomatically by closing his eyes and feigning sleep. When cornered, I say things like, “How about that!” and “I know just what you mean!” and “It’s a crime, is what it is.”  And I mean it, too!  Debbie meets her son at the coffee shop every morning. I think they have a bail bond business together.

The new waiter calls me ‘boss.’ I’m not too crazy about that. He mostly wipes the tables of women sitting alone and tries to engage them in conversation. Another good percentage of his time is spent leaning against a booth sipping coffee. He hides his bowl of oatmeal in the cubby that holds the trash and recycle cans and attends to it every few minutes. He is one of those loud, Seinfeldian close-talkers who expands a lot of energy texting and telling the customers that he’s been working since he was fifteen and is looking for a better job.  Godspeed, I say

Fedila, the Ethiopian checkout lady, does not like the new guy. She claims he is the nephew of the morning shift supervisor and does as little work as possible. He apparently asked her out the second day he was on the job and this did not impress her, since she knew he was married with three children. Plus, she told me, he’ll reach into the display case and pull out pastries that he will eat in plain view of the customers, which she considers to be in poor taste.

I go there three or four times a week and can tell you the place has never been run efficiently. I am fascinated by the fact that the exhaust fan for the kitchen gives out directly onto the outdoor sitting area, thereby washing any unwary customer with essence de bagel.

Sometimes a single cashier will try to handle the orders of a dozen people. Other times, five or six workers are behind the counter milling about aimlessly and avoiding the customers altogether. Often, the manager will stand stock still and look around, as if amazed the place operates at all. The person in charge of replacing the fifty-pound coffee urns is a minute grandmotherly Latina who truly struggles to lift the containers. I tried to help her once but she hissed at me like a cobra.

Maury, being a lot more philosophical than I am, takes almost everything in stride except for the new guy. I sense we are on the brink of a volcanic eruption. It’s going to be either Maury or the new guy.

My money’s on Maury.

 

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  2. My money's on Maury, too. I love the coffee shop stories. More, please.

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