I don’t know if it’s pregnancy hormones, work-related burn out, or something else, but I have found myself getting more than irritated with some customers lately.
I opened this morning, which is my preference if I have to work on a Sunday, because as the day stretches on, things only get worse. Sunday is amateur day; people who don’t normally go out for coffee make a special trip before or after their church services, after their special Sunday brunches, or just for special shits and giggles. While I can have most customers’ drinks ready before they even finish paying, Sundays are full of people I don’t recognize or have only seen a few times. But sometimes these people are a special kind of regular — they always come in on Sundays and get irritated with me when I don’t know their drinks. Despite the fact that I work two a month, at most, and I don’t look familiar to them.
One of these people is an older woman who gets “treated” by one of our regulars after church. She never knows what she wants, takes a really long time figuring it out, and always ends up getting a small cup of coffee. When you ask her if she wants room for cream and sugar, she snaps that she doesn’t know; she wants to taste the coffee first. Then she tells you how strong it is. Over and over and over again.”Ewww. This is so strong.” “This coffee is really strong.” “Oh, my word, this is the strongest coffee I’ve ever tasted!” Then she wanders over to her friends and continues to talk about it, making sure we’re within earshot.
This morning I kind of lost my patience with her and, without even realizing it, I muttered under my breath, “Je-sus. I know.” She heard me and did not appear to be very happy, but for Pete’s sake — what does she want us to do about it? I’ve suggested everything from foofy, sweet drinks, to tea. Today I wanted to tell her to walk her happy ass home and drink her Sanka or Folger’s or whatever the hell it is she drinks that isn’t as dark as our brewed coffee.
We had a lot of ice on the sidewalk this morning, so while my opener was trying to put down salt, I was ringing people up and making drinks. As I was finishing up someone’s latte, a man I’ve never seen walked up to the counter and stared me down. I greeted him and said I’d be with him in just a moment, I just needed to finish this drink. He glared at me and as I handed the other customer her latte, he barked, “Are you ready for me yet?”
I composed myself and said, “Of course, what can I get for you?” As I walked around the bar area to the register.
“Make me a hot chocolate,” he commanded.
So I had to turn right back around and go to the bar. And, of course, I had to ask what size he wanted, if he wanted a particular kind of milk (“What do you mean?” He growled. “Cow’s milk. That’s what I want. Do you have that?”)
I hesitated before asking if he wanted whipped cream, a controversial topping that some people despise and some can’t live without. I chose to put just a little bit on top to avoid irritating him further, psychically willing Rebecca to stop messing with the salt on the curb and come back inside. When I handed him his drink, I said, “Here’s your cocoa!” as sweetly as I could.
“I said I wanted a HOT CHOCOLATE,” he practically bellowed. To me, the terms are interchangeable. Some people apparently disagree. Before I could stop myself, I said, “A hot chocolate is the SAME as a hot cocoa,” and I slammed it down in front of him. Luckily, Rebecca had come back and I walked away from the register so she could ring him up and I wouldn’t say something I regretted even more.
I don’t know why I’ve lost my patience. I’ve been working in customer service and people-oriented fields my entire life. Whether it was with the publishing company where I coordinated entire series of books and had to communicate with editors, authors, and copywriters, in social services when I worked with disabled adults, or bookstores, coffeeshops, and pizza places. I’ve always been proud of my ability to brush the bad attitudes off and move on. But lately I have to grit my teeth harder and harder to stop from slapping people and screaming about how petty they’re being. Maybe I need to go back and see my counselor.