I've worked behind pub counters in touristy parts of London, for toupéed men in gropey bars, and—for the summer between my first and second years in college, mostly because they were the only store to call me back after I'd carpet-bombed the mall with applications—for the local Abercrombie & Fitch, where my superlative skills in sweater-folding were eclipsed only by my impressive ability to smile politely as bored 15-year-olds charged $500 in whiskered denim to Daddy's American Express without so much as removing the straw for the TCBY Frappé Chiller from their mouths.
I've always thought, though, that the guy who had it the roughest when it came to dealing with the general public on a minute-to-minute basis was the guy who stands behind the Starbucks cash register and asks people who've just given him complicated drink orders what name he should write on their cup.
Think about it, that's stressful. It's busy, it's noisy, you're the only thing standing between a cranky person and the substance that famously spawned a warning seen on mugs in kitchens across the world—Don't Talk To Me Until I've Had My Coffee!—and you have to stand there and ask this person their name? No, ma'am. No, thank you. That is terrifying. Give me the sleazy bar boss who makes the waitresses wear midriff-baring tanktops to bring in more business on the weekends. Give me three hundred ruffled henleys that need to be folded and sorted by size before you can duck out to browse the sale rack at Wet Seal on your lunch hour. Just don't make me ask anyone their name in a crowded coffeeshop with a line of irritated people behind them.
Whenever I am asked my name at a Starbucks—which is rare, because I'm usually just getting a plain old cup of coffee, and that, mercifully, is boring and easy enough not to require an inquiry into one's personal information—I try and speak as loudly and clearly as I can. My accent already puts me at a disadvantage—I once left a voicemail for a co-worker and spent my remaining two years at the job going by the nickname Honey Buns, which is apparently what Holly Burns sounds like in an English accent if you say it quickly and nervously enough—and so I make sure to pay particular attention to that. "Holly," I say to the barista, smiling and patient and encunciating better than Keira Knightley herself. "H-O-L-L-Y. Like jolly. But with an H."
This is why I cannot understand why my most recent coffee order was dispatched to me like this:
Pauly? Porky? Let us all hope, for god's sake, that it was Pauly. Don't feel bad for me though, I was fine. It was poor Sean who had to walk into work that morning with a cup of coffee belonging to Pauline.