Oh Costa Coffee, for 3 days last week you did something which brought great delight to millions of caffeine enthused beverage lovers, and yet must have utterly destroyed the morale of every poor, minimum wage, barista faced with endless queues of bargain hunting customers, snaking out the door and round the car park 3 times.
And yet, despite the pity I felt for my coffee serving companions, I, of course, joined the queue to enjoy my discounted drink like everyone else. But somehow, this managed to turn into the most stressful moment of my week.
Working in Bedford, there is a Costa Coffee just 2 minutes from the office. Being the benevolent and generous individual I am, (and realising a round of drinks would only cost me £2.50) I leapt at the chance to do a coffee run on this particular day.
Upon realising there were 6 drinks to be purchased and Costa were limiting you to 5 purchases at a time (“I’ll have 934 skinny Caramel Latte’s please” – someone would do it), I realised I had to take a friend who in effect only came to purchase their own drink (sorry Nige).
Getting to the queue, we were pleased to see there were only around 7 or 8 people/groups ahead of us. So we had a leisurely 15 minute wait and chat as customer after customer came out with their 5 drinks (I’m assuming at least some of them decided to just go all in for coffee that morning and drink their bodyweight in caffeine).
Eventually we got near the door and having noticed the clear ‘one in, one out’ system in place, when I saw a customer exit, took the bold step to enter the store.
Big mistake. As someone who has always been a bit of a goody two-shoes I HATE being told off. The poor, aforementioned barista, whom I shall call Bev (name changed to protect anonymity), was clearly having one of the worst days of her life, was in no mood for pleasantries. In a very headteacher/naughty pupil tone, she told me to get out.
Feeling ashamed, I sloped out the door, and at maximum embarrassment in front of the now assembled 3829 people in the queue, I pulled my facemask up a little bit higher to hide my blushing cheeks.
Finally when another 3 customers all departed the shop, I had to be beckoned in by Bev the Barista, who I’m sure now felt was dealing with some kind of idiot. Eventually I got to the till and began to place the order. Half way through describing the first drink, Bev cut across me in a manner that suggested she was considering leaning through the small hole in the plastic shield between us to punch me in the face, “Er – how many drinks you ordering?” she barked.
Feeling a little chastened already, I went into full bashful, apologist mode, not unlike Hugh Grant in… just about anything with Hugh Grant in.
“Well, er, if at all possible, um, if it’s not too much trouble, I was just wondering if I could er, possibly, err..um… knowing how busy you are and everything, just er… get the 5 drinks… please?” Staring down at the floor, there was a moments pause where I assumed she was winding up the haymaker. To my amazement it seemed I had passed the test.
“What drinks” she said, though pausing in between the ‘what’ and the ‘drinks’ for maximum emphasis.
Of course at this point I now started scrambling round on my phone, desperately trying to open it (blasted face mask!), before getting to the order, and remembering whether they were skinny or full fat coffees.
Having finally blurted out all 5 and paid my measly £2.50, which just didn’t seem enough given all the bother it felt like I was causing, I was then ordered to move down to wait for my drinks at the other end of the till, allowing Nigel to place his order.
Feeling relieved that I was now on the home stretch, the noticed Bev had behun staring at me with an intensity that burned into my very soul. Looking me straight in the eye and pointing at Nige, said “Are you with him?”
Slightly unsure where she was going with this I mumbled something along the lines of “U-huh”, desperately hoping that was the right answer. It was not.
“Er you do know we can only serve 5 drinks per group?” I feel this was an unfair question, the kind which I will often ask my kids and for which there is clearly no right answer.
“Yeeees?” I said cautiously, “Well you’re one group, you should only have 5 drinks and he’s ordering more”. “Sorry?” I quietly uttered, whilst dying a little inside at being told off for a second time in the space of 5 minutes.
“I’ll let you off this time, but don’t do it again” she growled. Briefly the thought occurred to me that I should perhaps question this strategy, to clarify that had we stood in the queue in the exact same manner as we had just done, except done so silently, rather than speaking to each other, would this have been acceptable?
But still feeling very sorry for Bev, in the midst of the worst working week of her life, and not wishing to receive a third tongue lashing, I kept silent, only speaking again to offer extreme and over the top gratitude to Bev and her colleague when the drinks were ready to be taken.
Once outside, it only then occurred to me that I was now holding 5 identical cups, the contents of which were a near total mystery to me. Bev had briefly stated which one was which, but now I was particularly unsure about the latte’s, one of which had coconut milk and the other skimmed.
Taking my best guess, Nigel and I returned to the office. I was just glad to have got out alive. I distributed the drinks and sat down to enjoy my Mocha (Yes I am still a child and am working on an ability to drink coffee neat).
Alas, after a minute or two I got a message from Lisa upstairs, “Jonny, why does my latte have coconut milk?”. This arrived at almost the exact same moment that Lee-Ann, sitting behind me also called for my attention.
Crying into my keyboard, I offered fulsome and grovelling apologies to all affected (they were both very gracious), before curling up in a ball under my desk in the foetal position.
Still, at least Nigel got his drink ok.