Filed under: Chapter 08 | Tags: Buddhism, caramel macchiato, Carrie Rollwagen, chai, Dylan, Frappuccino, Handlebar, Mochasaurus Rex, Pythagorean Theorem, Sluggo's, Some New Trend
The Supertwins just went to the bathroom. Together. That’s lame when anyone does it, and I didn’t expect it from them. I’d pegged them as loners. Above tag team bathroom visits.
Today is my second day on the job with a new hire. These first few shifts are critical in the development of a new coworker. He needs to be able to handle an onslaught of Frappuccino orders without wasting time talking to his friends, but he must be laid back enough to enjoy a game of cards when business is slow, even if there are dishes to be done. It’s a delicate balance. Like a fucking ecosystem.
This new guy’s name is Taylor Gonzalez. There are only two things you need to know about Taylor:
1) He’s a wannabe missionary who’s only taken this job to save up for a plane ticket to Africa. That level of humanitarianism raises major suspicions — what’s this kid got to make up for that he’s willing to do such extreme penance?
2) I will never remember his name. He’s already told me he’s leaving for language camp in a month, and I see no point in making room in my already taxed memory for a name I’ll want to forget the first time he spills a latte on my shoes. Henceforth, I will call him New Guy, thereby making space for something more important, like the lyrics to my favorite Smiths song, or the number of that hot, confused Buddhist chick I met Saturday night, or the Pythagorean theorem.
“I take my mission to train you very seriously,” I tell New Guy. “You might say it’s my calling.” I wonder if he realizes I’m calling him out on his missionary zeal. It’s pretty obvious, but you never know. “Have faith,” I say. “You’ll get it.” That should drive home the point.
“I’m not an idiot,” he says. “You don’t have to mock me.”
“I’m not mocking you,” I lie. “I’m mocking your belief system. There’s a difference.”
The color-coded Frappuccino chart on the wall keeps him busy so I can continue my anthropological study of the American teenager. Take these kids: the Supertwins and the two pimply guys they’re sitting with — one of them I’ve never seen without a hoodie and the other one, Will, inexplicably walking around the mall wearing swim trunks instead of pants. All four are outstanding specimens of surging hormones and too many behavioral meds.
Individually, I actually like these kids. They show a lot of potential. They listen to the right bands. Their haircuts aren’t too trendy. But get them together, and they’re a mess. Two bumbling guys whose greatest wishes are getting laid and growing facial hair, and a couple of pervy Christian school girls (I happen to know the Supertwins go to Horton, although they go to great lengths to conceal it).
I notice New Guy looks confused, and I’m about to start explaining the chart with my own personal twist (a.k.a. the Tao of Frappuccino), when Will gets up all pissed-off like and pushes his chair over.
“You’re the accident!” Will is yelling at Hoodie. “Have fun with your stupid girl. I hate this place.”
I have to go fix the chair and tell them to chill out. Hormonal teenagers are bad for business, especially when they reach furniture-throwing stage.
While this teen drama has been unfolding, a customer has ordered and New Guy has somehow gotten his apron shut in the register. He’s blowing it off, trying to free himself without looking stupid. That’s impossible, because the drawer locks shut, but I take my time steaming milk for a latte and pretend not to notice. A little humiliation isn’t going to hurt this kid. In the meantime, I’m enjoying myself immensely.
Supertwins are leaving now. The one in the sparkly little skirt hesitates at the door, trying to catch my eye to wave goodbye or something. Eventually she gives up, which is for the best. I like the kid, but you have to keep these girls at arms length or they get the wrong idea.
Especially this one, who looks like she just raided mom’s lipstick drawer. That’s not cute, that’s dangerous. Walked in a Supertwin, walks out Jailbait.
After I hand off the latte, I grab the keys I’ll need to open the drawer and free Taylor. I twirl them around on my finger a few times before releasing him. My ex-girlfriend — actually just the girl I used to kiss to get her to do my Psych homework — would say this key twirling display is my subconscious way of showcasing masculine power and managerial status. She’s wrong, though. There’s no subconscious about it.
I unlock the drawer and Taylor looks relieved to be free.
“You are saved,” I say, raising my hands in a “hallelujah” gesture. It’s dripping with false sincerity, and for a second I think he might grow some balls and hit me.
I’m rescued by the next customer, who asks for an upside down Caramel Macchiato, an order synonymous with “high maintenance.”
“Some customers so wound up,” I say as Caramel Macchiato leaves the store and goes back to her shopping.
“Yeah,” Taylor says, in a rare display of camaraderie. He’s apparently one of those Christians who’s into forgiveness.
“Speaking of uptight,” I say, nodding at the door as this blonde cheerleader girl walks in. Taylor takes one look and damn near falls in love immediately. There’s no denying, this girl is cute, but she’s a pain in the ass. I asked her to take the lid off her own cup last week, and she accused me of sexual harassment.
“Latte is an art,” I tell Taylor, although I can already tell my words will be lost to the swishy blonde hair effect. “But the people, they don’t care about the art. They care about sugar and caffeine. I might as well be selling Coca Cola.”
I’m cut off by the Cheerleader, who’s apparently in a big rush to order her chai. She waits until after I’ve finished making it to call out, “Oh, skinny! Can you make that skinny!” As if there’s a magic wand I can wave over the drink to suck out the calories.
“No problem!” I say with a sugary smile, and dump her cup loudly and obviously into the trash. “I’ll just start again, because I have nothing better to do!”
I’ve scared her, and that makes me smile for real.
One of the Supertwins — the quiet, bookish one — walks back in looking awkward as hell. She always looks a little awkward, so this is no big surprise, but I take pity on her. I catch her eye and wave her over to the hand-off area.
“What’s up?” I ask. I’m assuming she doesn’t want a drink, since she still has one in her hand.
“I, um … I think I left something.”
“What is it? I can check Lost and Found,” I say, but she doesn’t hear because she’s glancing nervously behind her at Will’s hoodie-wearing friend. I hate to tell her, Hoodie’s eyes are glued to Cheerleader. Judging from the look on Supertwin’s face, I don’t have to tell her — she’s painfully aware.
“Um, what?” she says, looking back at me. “Oh, I mean … it’s a book. But I see it over there,” she says, gesturing to the table where Hoodie is staring at Cheerleader.
“Okay,” I say. “Enjoy the book.”
My interest seems to surprise her, and she gives me a big smile. This smile really changes her face, her eyes, everything. I’m about to tell her she should use it more, but Bitch-Cheerleader walks up and puts Supertwin’s arm in a vice-grip. I wouldn’t have pegged them as friends.
“Oh my GOSH, June,” Cheerleader’s saying. “I am SO glad you’re here. You have to stay with me!”
“Um, okay.” June is speaking slowly.
“I’m here with Josh, and I don’t know if it’s a date or what but I can’t do this by myself today! You HAVE to stay with me.”
Cheerleader is exceptionally imperative.
“Oh, Bryanna, I don’t know,” June says. “I forgot, I have … a thing.” She’s looking nervously back and forth to Hoodie’s table. “I’m sorry. I’m really sorry.” The smile is totally gone now.
“Nope, not cutting it,” Cheerleader says, dragging June by the arm to sit at a table with Hoodie, who consequently looks disappointed. June looks like she might cry. Cheerleader looks oblivious, like always. See what I mean about anthropology?
I sent New Guy to a table near the high schoolers with a fat notebook full of procedures for steaming milk and calming down irate customers. He’ll need that last part if he’s going to work with me.
Apparently, Cheerleader doubts that I have actually made her chai “skinny,” so she sends Hoodie on a mission to get it right.
“I don’t remember you ordering this,” I say suspiciously, but I take the drink anyway, pour it out — again — and remake it.
“Uh, no, it’s …”
“Oh, for your girlfriend,” I say, just to keep Hoodie on his toes, and it works. I can see him blush and light up all at the same time. He glances over his shoulder, I guess to double check that Cheerleader didn’t hear, and sees that she’s engrossed in conversation with good old June.
“How’s that going?” I ask, gesturing to the girls. I could be asking about either one. I’ll let him decide how to answer.
“Good, I think,” he says, leaning in a little now, probably without realizing it. People put a lot of trust in baristas. We’re the bartender of the 21st century.
“I’m not sure where to take her,” he says, cautiously. “You know, besides the mall.”
“I’m not …” he hesitates. “She’s not old enough to get into bars.”
“Oh, right,” I say. “You know, that’s probably better. Fun at the time, but just leads to a stomach full of liquor and regret.”
“Right,” he says, like I don’t know from his zitty little face there’s no way he’s 21.
Hoodie walks awkwardly back to his table. Two girls, one hoodie. Kid doesn’t know how good he’s got it.
I pull a chemical-soaked rag out of its bright red bucket — the one that has a warning/poison skull on the side — and start wiping spilled creamer and Splenda off the counters. To the naked eye, I’m cleaning, but I’m actually taking the chance to do some anthropological fieldwork, eavesdropping on the teenagers.
I’m approaching a level of actual curiosity about what’s going on with these kids, but I can barely hear anything except Cheerleader making some joke about our checkerboard tables that makes Hoodie laugh like crazy. June just gives Cheerleader a weird look. I guess she doesn’t get it.
I have to get up to help a few customers — a couple of heavily made-up moms pushing strollers, then the over-muscled manager of American Eagle who brings his own GNC protein powder to dump into his Frappuccinos.
I’m just starting to prep for the next rush but New Guy keeps getting in my way.
“Didn’t I tell you to do some reading?” I say, screwing a CO2 cartridge onto a whipped cream canister. “How do you expect to be God’s soldier if you can’t follow orders?”
His face tells me he’s debating whether or not to stand up for his religion again.
“I think I’m supposed to be off work,” he sighs, skipping the confrontation.
“No dice,” I reply. “We get off at the same time.” But I walk back to the posted schedule just to check.
“Damn it!” I yell, so loudly that all three teenagers turn around. I ignore them. “New Guy, you little creep. You are off now. You’re leaving me alone with the (Aa)(E)rins and their superior attitude.”
Will walks back in the door, looking sweaty in his sleeveless t-shirt. Erin walks in right behind him.
“Speak of the devil,” I say to Erin as she clocks in.
“Dylan, you harassing the fresh meat?” she says, eyeing New Guy.
“Of course not,” I say, working the register to take Will’s order while Erin sizes up Taylor.
“Hey,” I say to Will. “You forgot your sleeves.”
He either ignores or doesn’t hear me. “Java Chip Frapp. Light. Extra Whip,” he says.
I consider bullshitting him some more, but then I remember that Will actually tips, so I dump the stuff into the blender.
“Don’t listen to a word Dylan says,” Erin’s telling Taylor. “He’s been stuck in this job for too long so he likes to haze new baristas. Don’t take him seriously, he’s just a grumpy old coffee shop dinosaur. Our very own Mochasaurus Rex.”
“He doesn’t really bother me,” Taylor says, obviously lying.
“Really?” Erin says. “Cause he made one girl so uncomfortable she threw up in a mop bucket.”
“Is that true?” Taylor asks, incredulous, as Erin pulls a donut out of the pastry case and takes a bite.
“Her body was very in tune with her emotions,” I say, faking nostalgia for that vomiting girl. “I kind of envied her that way.”
I realize that I’m still holding Will’s Frappuccino.
“Oh, here you go, man,” I say, handing it over.
“Bonjour,” he says. “I mean, Gracias.” He unwraps his straw and starts drinking it right away.
“Dude,” he says to me, like he’s earned the right to call me “dude.” “My lame ass friend over there texted me, wants to get some girl out of the way so he can be alone with his golden princess. I’m doing it because, you know, dude has to be a wingman sometimes. But how am I supposed to pull this off? What if June won’t come with me?”
Poor kid. I wish I could help, but I’m pretty sure there’s no way that bookish June is walking out of this place with some sweaty guy in swim trunks.
“Man, offer her a ride home,” I say.
“You think?” he brightens at the assignment.
“Oh, yeah,” I said. “She’ll take it.”
I totally do not expect her to actually take it. To my surprise, she does. Hoodie and Cheerleader are alone at last. But their golden summer is fleeting: Jailbait comes in five minutes later, looking all pissed off when she sees them.
“Damn, is she in love with him too?” I wonder out loud, and Aaron — who has apparently finally arrived — waves a tattoo-covered arm in my face.
“Earth to Dylan,” he says, like an idiot. “Come in, Dylan.”
I bat away his arm, covered in tattoos so bad they actually make me ill.
“Get your lame U2 tats out of my face,” I say. His dedication to Bono is disturbing.
“She’s not in love with him,” Erin says. “Although she’s about twelve, so it shouldn’t matter to you. Josh is in my class, and that’s his sister.”
She finishes making her own drink, than announces she’s taking a smoke break. I don’t mention that she just walked in ten minutes ago.
There’s a little fat kid taking his sweet time deciding which calorie-laden pastry he wants, and Jailbait is behind him in line, huffing and puffing and checking her cell phone. Eventually, she makes me so edgy that I just make her drink and wave her over.
“Another shot in the dark,” I say conspiratorially. “On the house.”
“Thanks,” she says, looking like I just gave her a promise ring or something. Then she starts babbling. “I don’t have long because I’m on a break from work, and I have to see that stupid cheerleader with my brother, and then I have to wait forever while that kid decides on a snack.”
The pastry-loving fat kid is gone now, but the next customer isn’t any better. Aaron is packing several to-go cups full of tea bags and honey packets, so I’m guessing the customer mentioned having a head cold or a sore throat. Aaron is convinced that his special tea blend will heal anything, so he’s always pushing it on people. Stupid tea peddler.
It takes me a minute to realize that Jailbait is still talking.
“She’s so dumb, she walks all over people.” I’m guessing she’s still on about Cheerleader. “She’s been in Josh’s class forever and she didn’t even know his name until, like, yesterday. They have nothing in common. She’s completely horrible.”
“Whoa, sister,” I say. “Chill. Maybe you don’t need another shot in the dark.”
“You don’t understand,” she says. “It’s girls like her that make life hell. It’s girls like her that make guys idiots. It’s girls like …”
“Okay, okay,” I say, leaning over the counter, all sincere-looking. She finally stops talking and looks up at me hopefully, like I’m going to impart some wise advice.
“Look,” I begin, totally unsure where to go with this. “I’m not saying she’s not an idiot. It’s like … okay, you’ve earned your hate goggles. But that doesn’t mean you have to wear them, you know? Is that really how you want to see the world?”
This is total nonsense, but I raise my eyebrows and lean back as if it’s profound. Apparently, it works, because Jailbait leaves without attacking the couple that has caused her so much existential grief.
Cheerleader waves but Jailbait pretends not to see — I guess I can’t expect miracles. But then Cheerleader checks her phone and makes some big deal about having to leave in a hurry. Josh goes with her — why? Is he walking her to the mall entrance? Is there anything more sweetly pathetic than that?
Five minutes later, the brat pack is gone, New Guy is gone, and the (Aa)(E)rins are in the back washing dishes, filling whipped creams, and complaining about what a terrible job I’m doing.
I’m alone with a bucket full of chemicals and a Frappuccino blender.
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