Monday, July 17, 2006

How hard it is to run this place

I have three favorite places to go for coffee down here, each one my favorite at different times of day and under different circumstances. One's for morning, one's for after dinner, and one's for whenever I happen to be passing by it and get a whiff of what's brewing inside.

Last year the owner of my morning place sold out. The new owner never seems to be enjoying her work. She's a thin, blond woman with curling hair and features made plain by worry and resignation. She looks as if she's forcing herself to grit her teeth and bear it without complaint, as if all the headaches and worries of running a business are part of a penance she's serving.

This morning, guy ahead of me tells the counter girl that one of the carafes is empty, one is mislabelled---it's supposed to be the house blend but it's raspberry creme---and a third splashed into his cup something that the label says is Columbian but smells suspiciously of hazelnut, meaning it's wearing the wrong name tag too. The counter girl is flustered and apologetic, but the owner doesn't speak up, although she's standing right there, making a breakfast sandwich on a butcher's block. She doesn't apologize, doesn't give immediate orders to the girls to fix the problem, and doesn't make a move to fix things herself. Her jaw tightens and her expression is full of frustration, exasperation, and...martyrdom.

She says something, pretty much to herself, about someone being a funny, little Scandanavian something or other, referring, I guess, to whichever employee out back who made the coffee this morning, not angry as much as reminding herself that she'll never hire any more exchange students with suspect English language skills.

Then, without lifting her head, she shifts her eyes from the cutting board to give the complaining customer a hard look.

He was trying to be polite and helpful, actually. But her look is a blaming look, as if the face of his deciding to come in for coffee this morning upset the time-space continuum and caused the little Scandanavian so and so to make those mistakes half an hour before he walked through the door. It seems to me that she thinks he should understand, without having to be told, and as if it was his concern, how hard it is for her to run this place and not made it any harder for her by causing trouble by pointing out mistakes.


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