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MY BARISTA, MY FRIEND?

On most days, even when I get up too early, I’m already running late. So that by the time I get showered, get dressed, get the kids ready, get in the car, get the kids to school and get to Starbucks, I have used up what little energy I began the day with and what I really want is my venti extra-shot Americano.

Now.

IIn the old days, this was easy because vain, arrogant, intimidating baristas would glare so angrily at anyone who ordered wrong – a “vanilla sugar-free grande triple latte” instead of a “triple grande sugar-free vanilla latte,” for example – the poor soul would have no choice but to take his or her drink and slink away in shame, silently vowing to avoid such humiliation tomorrow by going somewhere else and leaving Starbucks to the caffeine addicts.

Baristaphobia = shorter lines.

But now that McDonald’s has McLattes, Dunkin’ Donuts touts the dunkin’ as much as the donuts, and break rooms everywhere include at least one vending machine that can automatically make any one of a dozen coffee-drinks, Starbucks seems to have realized they have to do more than just serve coffee if they want to make money, they have to serve customers.

Who can blame them? It worked for Burger King back in the ‘70s, so why not?

(Except instead of “Hold the pickle, hold the lettuce, special orders don’t upset us,” it might be:
“Make it no foam
or sugar free
whatever you want
we’ll serve with glee
our growth has slowed
so we can’t be
snobs anymore.”)

Obviously, there’s nothing inherently wrong with being nice, but the result of this customer-friendly attitude is that all the people who used to stay away from Starbucks because they were afraid of being yelled at are now standing in line right in front of me, asking what the difference between a “misto” and a “macchiato” is or trying to decide if they’d like to try a breakfast sandwich.

Worse, the baristas are not just being polite to them, they’re being chatty, too. Which means that in addition to wanting to know exactly how they can make the customer’s drink exactly the way they’d like it made, they want to know how their day is, what kind of plans they have, how their family is, etc.

And when I finally get to the front of the line, they want to know that about me, too.

Except at 7:43 in the morning, after having been up all night with a vomiting toddler and a dog who wants me to get up every couple of hours and go to the window to look at the neighbor’s cat, I don’t want to be friendly to anyone – not my kids, not my spouse, not my neighbors and certainly not my barista.

Unfortunately, as much as I want to respond to the question “How’s your day going so far?” by saying “It would be a lot better if I didn’t have to wait in line for 25 minutes to get a cup of coffee,” I don’t.

Because whether it’s crack cocaine or caffeine, addicts like me will do anything to get their fix – even smile and pretend to be friendly.

(And while there are still any number of alternatives to Starbucks, places where the lines are short and somber, and the baristas still act like divas, they’re a few blocks out of the way, and the only thing worse than waiting a few extra minutes in line is waiting a few extra minutes in traffic.)

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