Thursday, August 24, 2006

Au Naturale

Coffee shops in this area understand their responsibility to serve the un(der)caffeinated population as quickly and efficiently as possible -- if for no other reason than self-preservation: East Coasters in their natural state can be a particularly heinous lot...*shudder*

At the Starbucks near my office, the manager stands in front of the counter, Sharpie and stack of cups in hand, and takes orders the second you walk in the by the time you pay, you're only a few minutes away from your fix. The Dunkin Donuts down the street from my house operates with lightning efficiency and only one cashier -- and still, on even a crowded day, you can be in and out (with a perfectly creamed cup of coffee the rough-equivalent-temperature of the sun) in a matter of minutes. It's a beautiful thing.

...unless the customers are complete morons.

I decided that a big cup of Dunkin Donuts coffee was necessary this morning, so I stopped on the way to work.

Wait. You won't fully get it unless I pause to explain the store layout: The counter runs perpendicular to and is just left of the door. There's a 6 ft. long nylon barricade (like at the movies) parallel to the counter and about 3 feet back with two, bright-red, extremely helpful signs posted on it. The first (nearest the door) says something useful like "Please Step Forward" and the second says something even more useful like "Please Wait Here For Next Available Cashier." The general queuing pattern is that you walk in the door, proceed straight ahead along the outside of the barricade, turn left, take one big step forward to the counter, place your order and pay, get your steaming mug of happiness, turn left again (now traveling inside the barricade) walk back to the door, and you're outtie. It's like the Soup-Nazi...with cream and sprinkles on top.

Got it? Good... Now...where was I... Oh...right....

I decided that a big cup of Dunkin Donuts coffee was necessary this morning, so I stopped on the way to work. There was a line extending from the far end of the barricade to the door, but this didn't worry me because the staff here are machines when it comes to getting you in and out. There's a man and a woman in front of me and they're chatting. There are 3-4 people in front of them. The line behind me is now out the door. It's all good. I can smell coffee. Happiness soon!

Suddenly, the woman in front of me looks up and grins and says something to someone behind me about "dutifully holding a place"...and five middle schoolish girls pile in front of me/us with the man and woman. Um...ok. That's fine. I'm patient. There's only three people ahead of them now, so that's cool...probably a group order, anyway. No big. I'm still standing at the doorway.

Another woman and three more girls come in and join the now-massive group in front of me. Ok, ahem, that's right up against the edge of rude, but fine...whatever. They're a happy, chatty lot with girly giggles and "do you know what you want?...I'm not sure what I want." And I notice that now, the last person before them is at the cashier station and we're all still jammed up in the doorway. They haven't moved up at all, even though the line in front of them has gone down.

Oh. Maybe I misunderstood. Maybe they're still waiting for more people and I'm queued up behind them like a dope. Doh! So I asked the man, politely (I thought), if they were in line and he said that they were. I said "Oh, ok...sorry. I just noticed the signs..." (gesturing vaguely to the shiny red directional signs and huge space in front of them) And he uber-sweetly (in that way that isn't really sweet at all) snides back "Well, yes...but it's not actually working that way." I smiled (or tried to) and said "Oh...ok. That's weird."

...but it's making me crazy. I want to move them. I want them to follow the signs. I want to fix the flow of this mess because the door keeps bing-bonging that it's open and it's open because they won't. move. up. The urge to fix this is killing me. I'm a natural organizer. I used to organize people for a living. You can't un-learn that, you know!! And I haven't had coffee. Clearly, I came here for coffee... The people behind me aren't in much better states of being...I can feel the tension mounting.

The very efficient cashier has now said (three times) "Can I help someone??" (Yes, people, that means you!) Ugh. They're going to the cashier's stand diagonally through the barricaded area... Diagonally! Is that what the barricade is for, folks? I think not... And...oh look: It's not a group order at all. They're going up in clusters... First the original woman...then the man and three or four girls...then the late-coming woman and her girls...oh, and this one is waiting for her mom...


As the last group goes up, I shoot a pointed look at the man (who's been milling around and making snidely apologetic -- in that way that isn't really apologetic at all -- comments to me the whole time) and I walk confidently -- dare I say defiantly -- to the sign that says "Please wait here for next available cashier"...and...I wait.

Uh huh. See how I just did that? (...because it can actually work that way)

And the entire queue follows me. And, in my head, the whole line breathes a collective sigh of relief because everything's working correctly again and the universe has been righted and we can get our coffee in the way that Dunkin Donuts intended: quickly and efficiently...with cream...and sprinkles on top.

Truth be told, I feel a little guilty for reacting so strongly to the whole situation. But I wasn't kidding: East Coasters in their natural state are a particularly heinous lot.


towwas said...

The other day at Five Guys I asked the dudes in front of me (pointedly) if they were in line. They'd left a huge gap, and it was right at the place where people sometimes take the line in another direction! It was a dangerous situation!

They moved up.

I was happy.

towwas said...

I'm also happy about your new non-blogger comment availability. Yay. Since my blog is no longer speaking to me. [sigh]

J.Bro said...

This story strikes me as a very Midwesterner way to handle the situation, so maybe we're not all so different after all. Except Californians. They would have been all, "Duuude - like, what's up? I'm gonna go catch a wave and hang ten, and I'll just come back later if that's cool. Cool." Tell me I'm wrong, Californians. Yeah, that's what I thought.

I Blog, You Blog said...

Oh, well, see...I'm from the Midwest. So yes...the overwhelming urge to fix it, I credit to my Midwestern upbringing... snarky, uncaffeinated attitude about the whole thing (and the need to blog on about it at length), I credit to my newfound East Coastiness.


Anonymous said...

I'm not a midwesterner. I just like line discipline. And I'm revelling in the fact that I can actually post to your blog. Sigh.

towwas said...

This is an experimental post. Feel free to delete it. (It's towwas, btw - which you probably figured.)

BASSO said...

...never would have happened that way in Philly or NYC -- more like Midwesterner Turned Coastie meets Moron and tries not to kill him. You always want things to work the way they are supposed to, sometimes you need to nudge, sometimes you need to hammer. Congratulations on NOT being a Californeite....

Sophist said...

In California, all of the people at the counter would be drinking coffee and looking beautiful and helping one customer every ten minutes. Most of the customers would be chatting away, not noticing that they had been in line for an hour. But a minority of the customers, such as myself (having spent many years on the East Coast and having become accustomed to having a delicious custom sandwich ordered, prepared expertly with no mistakes, and paid for in one minute flat) would be seething quietly, bemoaning the laziness and moronitude of native Californians.