I stood in a brief line at a suburban Starbucks outside of Philadelphia. The line comprised of middle class, upper middle class, and the occasional student. As I neared the front of the line I could see the barista – a young lumberjack who’d obviously been jumped in a forest mid axe swing and forced into the quintessential pine green Starbucks polo. He clearly yearned for the great out doors and looked forward to his next hearty meal of mutton. He spoke softly and kindly to each customer and there was no exception as the woman directly in front of me approached the counter.
“One nonfat, venti, caramel frappuccino with whip.”
Lumberjack cringed a little as delicately delivered the news, “I’m so sorry ma’am. We’re out of the frappucino.”
This patron of obvious opulence handed him a deep sigh. I mean, if sighs can come from the bowels then this one came straight from the depths. She paused the length of time it takes you to read this sentence. Meanwhile, shifting her weight. This was clearly a burden to bear and she’d need to hunker down to endure.
An overly composed reply came out all at once, as if she was shooing her troubles all away, “ This always happens to me.”
Lumberjack shifted his eyes, “I’m so sorry ma’am. Is there anything else I can make for you?” Leaving unsaid, from this enormous list behind me of 5,000 drinks.
“This. Always. Happens. To me.” It came out over enunciated this time.
What followed was a series of incomplete sentences artistically displaying her level of devistation at the situation at hand.
“No, no, no, don’t bother…I just can’t believe…I…forget it.” And then a final, “This always happens to me.” muttered in a quick pace out the door.
I approached the Lumberjack looked more lost than anything (which I thought was fitting given his appearance). My affect display was on mute. My face was straight. We exchanged shifty eyes, but my face said nothing more. This was difficult for me. I have a habit of giving away my every thought.
In my most serious tone I queried, “Do you always do this?”
He had the biggest Oh shit look. His eyes bulged to indicate, This cannot be happening again.
“Excuse me?” he asked.
“Do you always do this?” I repeated in my best, quiet, you know exactly what the hell I’m talking about tone. Before he had the chance to respond, “Do you always just go around ruining the days of middle age, middle class women? I mean, This always happens to her! I mean, genocide in Rwanda, massive poverty around the world, catastrophic natural disasters, but, you know, this always happens to her.”
By this point he’d dropped the tremulous look and donned an enormous smile of relief followed by laughter.
“I’ll take a tall, pike with a dollop of soy. Thanks. And, nice beard.”
I never saw him again, but I bet he found his way back to the forest.