guess

TAKE ONE:

I went through the drive-thru at a coffee shop today.  It was nearing 4:00PM and I hadn’t eaten yet, so I had to settle for an iced coffee and as healthy a sandwich as such a place might offer.  As I rolled my window down to order, I was assaulted by a high-frequency squeal emitting from the order station.  I instinctively winced and recoiled from the sound.  I couldn’t believe a national place like this can’t manage to stay on top of fixing their equipment.  Honestly — do they want my business?  News flash: I don’t have to buy their food.

It was tempting to just drive off, but from somewhere within the grating feedback, a small voice addressed me.  I couldn’t make out what he was asking, or even if it was a “he.”

I sighed, shouting back, “I can’t hear what you’re saying!  You’re machine is a mess out here!”

I was able to barely get “… sorry … your order …”  I assumed it was the usual, “Can I take your order?”  The line behind me was getting longer and I just wanted to get out of there.  I yelled my order:  “A medium decaf French vanilla iced coffee…”

I was interrupted.  “… sorry … up please … can’t hear …”  I literally growled, hoping they could hear that.

I leaned well out the window, now yelling with an edge of attitude.  “I said I’ll have a MEDIUM DECAF FRENCH VANILLA ICED COFFEE, LIGHT WITH MILK, AND TWO SWEET AND LOW and …”

I was cut off again.  “… that complete y … order?”

“No!” I shouted, exasperated.  I knew I must have looked like a lunatic to the people behind me, the cars now backing up well around the corner of the building.  “I’d like a BACON EGG AND CHEESE ON AN ENGLISH MUFFIN!”

“Drive … please.”

As I rounded the corner toward the window, the customer ahead of me seemed to be having an issue.  The window worker was leaning out.  Bags and money were going the wrong way.  “I’m sorry …” I heard the worker start to say, but the car had already sped off, tires spinning.  Geesh.  This place was really doing some excellent customer service.  :: rolled eyes ::

When I got up to the window, the kid said, “A small iced tea?”

What the …?

“No, not even close,” I told him dryly.  I repeated my order.  Yet again.

“Yeah, sorry, the intercom isn’t working,” he said.  As if I didn’t already know this.  I let him know how irritating my visit thus far had been.  “Can’t they fix that thing?  It’s really annoying to the customer.  I almost just drove off.  At least put a sign on it that says it’s out of order and just tell people to drive up and order.”  He knew I was ticked.  He handed me back my card and receipt, offering a nonchalant “sorry, yeah, it’s busted,” and then disappeared.

Minutes passed.  All I could do was sigh repeatedly and keep looking in my rear view mirror at the disgruntled faces behind me.  Just as I thought about rapping on the window and telling him I wanted my money back, the kid reappeared with my drink and sandwich.

I know this situation all too well.  If they’re screwing up most things, they’re screwing up everything.  I sat right where I was, removed the straw wrapper, popped it through the coffee top and took a sip.  As I thought. They’d only put one Sweet and Low.  I handed it back through the window unceremoniously, with half-closed eyelids.  “TWO Sweet and Low, please.”  He took it from me, uttering more apologies, as I unwrapped my sandwich, to be sure it was right.  No bacon.  I ground my teeth together.  After all this, and they still couldn’t get it right.  No excuse.  I’d be calling the number on the bag to report this place.

The kid came back with the coffee and I handed him the sandwich.  “With bacon, please,” I said in the same flat manner.  One of the cars behind me zipped out of line and took off.  Why did these people even have jobs here?  Don’t they have a manager? I thought.

At last, I got the sandwich back, checked it, and grinned mirthlessly at the final apology.  Then I drove off.  What a nightmare, for such a simple order!

TAKE TWO:

I went through the drive-thru at a coffee shop today.  It was nearing 4:00PM and I hadn’t eaten yet, so I decided to treat myself to an iced coffee and the “guilty pleasure” of a breakfast sandwich.  Why not? I thought.  I’d earned the extra calories having skipped breakfast.  As I rolled my window down to order, a high-frequency squeal emitted from the order station.  Yowzer!  I instinctively winced and recoiled from the sound.

I wasn’t sure what to do, so I waited a few more moments.  Somewhere within the scrambling noise, I heard a voice.  I figured they must be asking me what I wanted, so I placed my order: “Hi, could I have a medium decaf French vanilla iced coffee…”

I was interrupted.  “… sorry … up please … can’t hear …”

I spoke up a bit louder and repeated my order.  The line behind me continued to grow.  I felt bad for the workers, having to deal with a broken intercom that they clearly couldn’t fix.  That must be awful, to come to work for minimum wage and find that the equipment was on the fritz.  They must have been hearing the feedback in their earpieces.  And I’m sure most customers were less than kind about it.  I felt genuinely sorry for them.  Well, I’d do what I could to cheer them up.

I drove up to the window.  Surprisingly, the kid who opened the window was still smiling.  “A small iced tea?” he asked.

“Nope,” I said smiling.  “I had the sandwich and an iced coffee.”

“Oh, OK.  Yeah, I see it.  Sorry, this machine’s really horrible today.”

“You know what, Craig?” I said, “You’re handling it really well.  Just keep smiling and everyone will get over it.”

He laughed, eyes flashing.  “Well, I hope that’s true!” he said, clearly frazzled but happy for the light interaction.

I looked in my rear view mirror.  The woman behind me looked really peeved.

Craig came back with coffee.  I took a quick sip.  Only one Sweet and Low.  Oh well.  For Pete’s sake, I thought, we live in a country where we can order unnecessary luxury items like coffee while sitting in our cars. Not only coffee, but iced coffee, and specialized right down to the type of sweetener we want!  It was definitely not that big a deal — certainly not worth making this kid’s day any worse over.  Plus, it got me out of my routine, if only in a small way.

Craig came back, handing out my sandwich.  I said, “Hey, Craig, would you ring in the woman behind me, as well?  She looks miffed.  It might cheer her up a little.”

He smiled.  “Sure, no problem.  She had the iced tea.  That OK?”

“Yup,” I said.  Soon, I was on my way.  I smiled thinking about the woman getting a little treat and hoped she’d be less irritable with Craig.

As I opened my sandwich and took a bite, I noticed that there was no bacon — just egg and cheese.  I thought of Dibby and the special egg and cheese sandwiches she makes for me (though this one could not compare).  Never bacon on hers, just egg and cheese.  The thought somehow made it taste just fine.

*************

The basic details of these two scenes are the same.  What’s more, those details are true and happened to me today.

“Take Two,” I’m happy to report, is how it really went down.

The only difference between these two “takes” is that one was me-focused and one was others-focused.  Can you tell which was which?

Guess.

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About Erik

Erik is an author, speaker, blogger, facilitator, people lover, creative force, conversationalist, problem solver, chance-taker, noticer and lover of life. He lives in the Boston area. "It's more about writing lives than writing pages." View all posts by Erik

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