“It’s a great day at Starbucks in Snellville. What can I start for you today?”
“I hate when you do that,” answered the crabby anonymous voice from the drive-thru speaker. “It takes too long and I’m in a hurry.”
Karla sighed and looked around to see if she could pawn off this customer on a co-worker who was smiling and happy. The smiling and happy ones were busy waiting on customers who were smiling back at them. “I’m sorry, sir. What would you like?”
“…with extra syrup and no whip.” He had started giving his order before she had finished speaking, and she had missed the beginning.
“I’m sorry, sir. Would you please repeat your order?”
“Damn it. You people are incompetent. No wonder you’re working at Starbucks making minimum wage instead of getting a real job.”
Karla drove to Georgia Tech for engineering classes 5 mornings a week, and worked part-time at Starbucks so she could afford gas, textbooks and food. The Hope Scholarship didn’t pay enough of her college tuition, and she suspected that next year they were going to cover even less. It was going to take her the rest of her life to pay off her student loans. She bit her lip.
“What would you like, sir?”
“I’d like for you to get my order right, for a change. I have my doubts that’s ever going to happen. I want a mocha latte with extra syrup and no whip.”
“What size, sir?”
“I’ve already told you at least three times. Grande, little girl, grande.”
“Thank you. Please drive around to the window.”
He was in front of her before she had stopped speaking. His coffee wasn’t ready yet. Karla leaned out the window and tried to transform her grimace into a smile. It was hard with her teeth clenched together so tightly. “That’s $3.98, sir.”
He handed her a $5.00 bill. “You do know how to make change, don’t you?”
Karla pretended she hadn’t heard him as she handed him a dollar bill and two pennies. He dropped the two pennies into the tip jar with a smirk. “That’s for you, little girl.”
Karla shut the window with a click and turned to look at her co-worker, who was holding the rude man’s coffee. “You give it to him,” she begged.
“Not on your life,” Leo laughed. “I’d tell him off and get fired. I don’t know how you deal with nasty customers like that.”
Karla took the coffee and opened the drive-thru window. “Here’s your order, sir.” She handed him the cup, shut the window and walked away. It was less than 15 seconds before there was a knock on the window. She pretended not to hear it as she downed a glass of water and two Tylenol tablets.
“Karla, your customer wants something,” Leo called to her. “Probably a good slap upside his stupid head.”
“Yes, sir?” Karla rubbed her throbbing temple as she opened the window.
“This doesn’t have extra syrup. I told you I wanted extra syrup.”
“I’ll make a new one for you,” she offered. It was Starbucks’ company policy that if it wasn’t right, they would make it again.
“I told you I’m in a hurry. I don’t have time for you to make it again. You should have made it right the first time. You just lost yourself a good customer, girly. I’m never coming to this Starbucks again.” He took off, missing the drive-thru cones by a millimeter or two.
Karla turned around and beamed at Leo. “Do you suppose he meant it? He’s never coming back?”
“Nah. He’ll be back. He’s the kind who likes to have something to complain about,” Leo predicted.
“Thanks, Leo.” Karla rolled her eyes. “You could have given me a little false hope, you know.”
Leo sang an off-key version of “That’s What Friends Are For”.
Karla grinned as she answered the drive-through buzzer. Maybe this customer would be human.