The Starbucks was buzzing, which was to be expected considering it was just after 8:30 a.m. Still, the line moved swiftly, and within moments, the only customers ahead of me were a woman and her preschool-aged son. She ordered first.
"Triple Grande skinny Caramel Macchiato, low foam."
I silently vowed this would be the day I emailed Starbucks with my long-simmering suggestion to create a separate line for anybody whose drink order contained more than 10 syllables. It would please millions of customers like me who frequent the chain in search of a "tall black coffee."
"Next?" the barista said. I stepped up.
"And I'll have--"
The woman cut me off. "My son is next."
"Sorry," I replied. "I figured you would have ordered for him."
"He likes to do it himself. Go ahead, Justin."
"Grande Frappuccino. One pump hazelnut, one pump white mocha and one pump vanilla. No whip, easy ice."
I've seen countless Justins at Starbucks: little kids who follow their parent's impossible-to-comprehend coffee orders with equally complex orders of their own. I find them all equally irritating. Their moms and dads smile proudly, as if their children's ability to say "Caffe Americano" while still wearing Pull-Ups will somehow get them accepted into an Ivy League institution. On the contrary -- pretentious kids like Justin usually become bullying targets before the whipped cream in their Venti Caramel Apple Spice dissolves. I stepped up again.
"And I'll have--"
"Ma'am, did you say easy foam on the Macchiato?" the barista said.
"No. Low foam."
"So, like, a quarter foam?"
"Slightly more than a quarter. But less than half."
"Okaaay," she said in her most pleasant, confused voice.
"Frappuccino. One pump hazelnut, one pump white mocha and one pump vanilla. No whip, easy ice is up," came a shout from the other end of the counter. Mom retrieved the cup.
"Here you go, honey."
"Mommy, this is a tall. I ordered a grande."
"That's right you did," she said. "Tell the lady."
By now, I counted 15 people in line. Most were texting, I assumed, the same message: "Gonna B late."
'''Scuse me," Justin said to the barista, whom he could barely see. "I ordered grande."
"Wouldn't you rather have a Slurpee, kid?" I said in my soft-but-apparently-not-soft-enough voice.
Mom glared at me. "He can get whatever he wants."
"I agree," I shot back. "We certainly wouldn't want your son to head off to day care without the precise amount of hazelnut in his system."
"You must not have children," she said, turning away.
Oh, but I do. And I've tried to raise them not to feel this entitled, especially at so young an age. A 4-year-old demanding less ice will no doubt turn into an 11-year-old with all the restaurant manners of Gordon Ramsay on Hell's Kitchen.
"Grande skinny Caramel Macchiato is up."
"Is that low foam?" Mom asked.
"Did you want low foam?" the barista inquired.
"I specifically said low foam."
"Hold on. We'll remake it."
By now the entire Starbucks assembly line had been disrupted. It was worse than when an airline passenger hauls his oversized luggage to the front of the plane while everybody else is trying to board. Two orders from Justin and his mom had become four.
"Can I just get a tall black coffee?" I asked.
"Is that it, sir?"
"Wait. I'll be more specific. A tall, black, easy-to-pour, easy-to-remember, minimal-effort-on-your-part, keep-the-line-moving coffee. No kids. Got that?"
Someone behind me applauded. I stepped ahead of mom and Justin and paid.
"Nice meeting you," I said. "Maybe I'll see you tomorrow since you'll probably still be here."
"Please leave," she said.
And I did. But not before hearing Justin make one more request.
"Mommy, can I get a strawberry blueberry yogurt parfait with extra strawberries? And can they put the granola on the side?"
"Tell the lady, honey."
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