The New Local Flavor

The past few evenings I’ve closed, I have noticed the same tall, young, jittery white guy come in. Every time he comes in, he scans the menu board for a long time, then asks how much a large coffee would be if you add chocolate and steamed milk. We tell him, then he asks how much it would be for a medium of the same, then a small. He stands there for a little while, shifting from foot to foot, grinning into space, then says, “Okay, medium coffee.” And he giggles. He usually giggles several times during the exchange. He wears a large, tan, ill-fitting trench coat that would make me nervous if I couldn’t see that he was wearing pants and a shirt underneath.

Yesterday afternoon he got his coffee (as usual, without the extra stuff, but still asking about all of it), then a couple of hours later, he came back. It was right when I was scheduled to leave and I could tell Audrey didn’t want to be alone with him, so I hung around for a few minutes. He didn’t go through the same coffee-chocolate-milk rigmarole; he just ordered a medium. He then dug a handful of change out of his pocket and dumped it in Audrey’s outstretched hand, half of the change falling on to the counter.

After doctoring up the coffee, he sat down with a laptop. I knew Audrey was getting irritated because we’d be closing soon and hadn’t had anyone in the store for at least a quarter of an hour. As the weird guy opened his laptop, he asked us if we would be closing in a few minutes. We both barked, “Yes!” and he went back to what he was doing. I clocked out and started to inch myself towards the door when, once again, the young man looked up at us.

“Did you girls go to college?” He asked.
I heard him clearly, but Audrey said, “What?”
“Did you guys go to college?”
We both responded with an affirmative, “Uh huh.”
At this point, and I shit you not, he smiled, clucked his tongue in a “tsk-tsk-tsk” manner, and shook his head, looking very disappointed in us. I looked over at Audrey, who appeared as if she was going to explode. Her face was all red and she looked furious.

Of course, I led her into the back and told her the guy was obviously a few fries short of a Happy Meal and not to let it bother her. Most of the time he’s been in there, he’s mumbling to himself under his breath, smiling at no one for several minutes at a time, and doesn’t make any direct eye contact. He sort of looks towards you and off to the side. If he were someone whose opinion she should care about, I imagine he wouldn’t be the type who comes in and asks the very same questions every single time.

But it really got under her skin. I think it was the first time someone really questioned what she was doing with her life (besides herself) and it made that much worse the same concerns she has over her chosen path. “If he says anything else about it,” I advised her, “or anyone else says the same thing, I would just tell them I feel lucky to have employment right now, regardless of what I’m doing.”

It didn’t bother me because the kid is a nutjob. His opinion isn’t important to me, neither is the opinion of many other people who come in to get coffee. The choices I’ve made are mine and I think I’m probably more okay with them than I let on. I do have my insecurities (what if I’d done this, maybe I should have done that), but for the most part, people can suck it. I realize I’m at an odd place in my life. Being employed at a coffeeshop is one thing when you’re 23, single, and living with housemates while you finish school. Being ten years older, married, and expecting a child . . . well, I guess things seem to be happening out of the order with which most people feel comfortable.

I just wish the school would give me a degree already. Not an honorary one — a real one. Just say, “Courtney, you’ve done such a good job while you’ve been here, and you only have a few credits left. We know you’re busy, so please accept this diploma on behalf of Indiana University and come back any time.”

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