Column October 20, 2010: High Elevenses

I WALKED into the coffee shop and ordered a coffee just how I like it, without any coffee in it and with a teabag in it instead.

I stood at the side of the counter and dunked the mini teabag up and down in my mug in a desperate but ultimately doomed attempt to make the not-quite-hot-enough water change colour from clear to deep brown. When I realised the “tea” would never shift from a sort of dismal yellow, I went over to the condiments station, splashed some milk in and sat down.

I opened the fruited spiced cookie I had bought in a moment of abandon.

Disappointingly, it was broken in three pieces, so I reassembled it so that any passers-by would assume I had an intact biscuit.

Turning attention back to my tea, I lifted out the teabag, but it swung back on its string, burning my hand. I dropped the teabag fully into my cup in a reflex action. The tea splashed out over the table.

I went to the condiments station again to get some napkins, came back and mopped it up.

The woman on the table facing me gave me a sympathetic smile. I smiled back, but I secretly hated her for having a nice no-trouble drink of her own.

I couldn’t get my teabag out of the mug. While the water was too cold to make a decent cup of tea, it was too hot to dip one’s fingers in. It was the exact opposite of Baby Bear’s porridge.

I went back to the condiments station and picked up a wooden lolly stick. Into the mug it went, and I twisted the teabag string around it like spaghetti around a fork.

And, like spaghetti around a fork, it slipped off again. The tea splashed out over the table. Back I went to the condiments station for more napkins.

I did the lolly stick trick again, and this time it worked. Now I had a soggy teabag and nowhere to put it. I went back to the condiments station, dripping hot “tea” into my hand to stop it going on the floor, and dropped it into the special hole designed for such items.

I sat back at my table, my half-mug of tea, a broken biscuit and a scalded hand in front of me, five trips to the condiments station behind me.

I had been punished for wanting a cup of tea in a coffee shop. This was the worst “popping out of the office for a treat” ever.

This preamble is to explain exactly why I was not the mild-mannered Clark Kent-ish specimen who usually appears in this space. Normally I only give offence unintentionally (if frequently) but my dander was up. I was primed, just one spark required.

A young man walked into the coffee shop. He was wearing that special uniform that young undergraduates wear these days: cardigan, T-shirt, scarf that looks like a tourniquet, laptop bag slung across torso, stupid hair and face. I would have hated him anyway, but then he opened his mouth . . . 

“Yeah, can I get a tall Americano?”

Fireworks exploded in front of my eyes. What? “Can I GET a tall Americano?”

“No,” I said, through gritted teeth.

He turned around. “Yeah?” he said.

“You can only GET a tall Americano if you climb over the counter and obtain one. What you want is to have one. You are not American. This isn’t Friends,” I said. “You meant to say, ‘Please may I have a tall Americano.’ The ‘please’ is important.”

I looked at the woman who had been smiling at me. She was studying her cup of coffee hard. I was on my own.

The young man shrugged and paid for his coffee. He walked out. “And you say ‘thank you,’ or ‘cheers,’ if you must,” I called after him.

I felt like a cross between John Wayne and Stephen Fry.

Satisfied, and absent-mindedly, I picked up my cookie.

A third of it broke off and fell in my tea.

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