He placed my drink on a vintage cast-iron something and said, “That will be $2.79.”
I hadn’t realized I left my wallet at home until this moment. Then, I immediately mastered the elements of space and time, obtaining three seconds of infinite clairvoyance allowing me to correctly identify that my wallet was next to my home computer on the left side of my speakers.
After I finished slapping my hands against my thighs, alternating back and forth between butt cheeks, my eyes stopped at what was now two dollars and 79 cents of debt I was responsible for. There it sat, orange, creamy, delicious, and not technically mine. I yearned for that particular Thai iced tea in that particular mason jar more than anyone in the entire planet, and yet, I was furthest from it. I blame the abnormally muscular mustached man who prepared it. I mean, the guy goes and makes a drink without first receiving payment for it, leaving the entire transaction up to chance.
Who does that? It’s unacceptable, really. Who makes a drink and then asks for payment, despite being the only barista responsible for both the register and the orders at a crowded coffee house. Despite previously having an exchange with a regular customer who pays in cash about how stressful the job can be at times like this, but how the tips make it worth it. Despite that exchange being heard by the next person in line who is generally a nice guy and thought it a good idea to relieve the stressful atmosphere by specifically ordering a relatively simple Thai iced tea and perhaps make a few jokes about how he feels exotic ordering it even though he knows he isn’t.
I mean, what is this guy’s deal? Who goes out of their way to make an especially delicious looking Thai iced, place it on a charming little napkin, make a few people chuckle by responding with “this is the most exotic part of my day,” and then ask for payment, not even acknowledging that a totally decent customer might have innocently left their wallet next to their home computer on the left side of the speakers?
“I must have left my wallet at my place” I said, immediately embarrassed by every single thing associated with myself. Embarrassed at my stupid outfit, embarrassed at my stupid choice of drink, and embarrassed at my stupid joke. I was embarrassed that I instinctively said “my place” even though I am absolutely living with my parents (it’s only temporary I swear). Most of all I was embarrassed at how I used the phrase “I must have”.
I must have left my wallet: who do I think I am fooling? Myself? Muscle-stache man? I did leave my wallet at home and it was completely my responsibility not to do this. My entire role in this scenario is to wait in line on my phone, squint at the menu pretending like I don’t order coffee that often, and bring my wallet. I screwed up, and no amount of incredulous “I must haves” will change that.
“Oh,” he said, as his furry eyebrows lowered and his large face wrinkled everywhere. It was at this moment I noticed how unbearably close I was to this man. The tired familiarity of this same coffee house interaction was apparently the only thing that made any of this seem bearable, and that was now shattered. His eyes were way too brown and I swear I saw his lower eyelid quiver.
Suddenly I hated the entire room. Why is the music so loud? Why is his mustache so huge. Why are there so many people behind me? Why did I ever think that this was a conducive work environment? The only thing between me and Muscle-stache was this sweating Thai iced tea, now completely orphaned by my irresponsibility. And I just stood there.
“You can always come back and pay later” he said, pushing the drink towards me.
“Thanks, I will, don’t worry about it!”
As I walked back to my seat, I knew I would never visit this coffee shop again. I lived 30 minutes away I was only here because someone else dropped me off somewhere with WiFi to wait for them to be finished with their errand. I can’t afford to drive up here by myself, let alone pay for a cup of nothing once I arrive. I wanted to tell him this, but I also wanted the suffering to stop, so i didn’t.
I wanted to tell him that the only reason I waited in line is because when I asked the woman I sat next to for the WiFi password, she told me it was for customers only. I felt like she was accusing me of snagging some free WiFi (which I was trying to do), so in a desperate bid to save face, I casually organized folders and deleted old files off my computer for 20 minutes. Only after I was satisfied with my new desktop background would I order a drink and get access to the cafe’s WiFi as a bonus.
Maybe he would have thought the whole thing was a funny story. Maybe we would have both started laughing about it and he would reveal that the entire situation inspired him to trim his mustache and chase after his dreams. Maybe we would start shattering pastry plates and coffee mugs across the entire store, laughing our heads off, drunk with inspiration. Then the owner of the store would come out from a bead curtain with a big check for $500 signed to me for being the best customer in years, and I could finally afford to buy a new roll of studio backdrop paper that I desperately need.
Instead I just sat back down with my ill-gotten beverage, and, once I realized I forgot to actually ask the barista for the WiFi password while I was up their ruining everyone’s life, I turned to the woman next to me and sheepishly confessed my absent mindedness, placing the Thai iced tea plainly on the table next to us.
The password was WiFi, in case you were curious.