This column is going to be a little different from my usual weekly offerings to Take Me Back, in that it has absolutely nothing to do with taking anyone back anywhere. I won’t be discussing any of my former teachers or reminiscing about frolicking in the snow as a 10-year old. There will be no stories about old TV shows from the fifties or self-deprecating discussions about purchasing my first jock strap. And there will definitely be no painted frogs. There will be nothing like that. I’m going to veer off the beaten path today – change it up a little.
Those of you who read either my or Patch column regularly know only too well that I’m a rabid coffee fiend. Coffee is my obsession. I've tried to cut back, but I can't do it. I can't help myself! I think I have a genetic predisposition to caffeine addiction.
I spend a lot of time and way too much money at Starbucks in Easton and mention their store frequently in my columns; so frequently that I’d think they’d comp me on my drinks for all the free publicity I’ve given them.
This morning I popped in for a cappuccino, but today things were different; there was a new girl behind the counter. There are probably about a half dozen girls who work at this particular store. I know all of them by name and they know me. I don’t have to tell them what I want. As soon as I walk up to the counter they know what I’m going to order and they know exactly how to make it. That’s a good feeling.
But today, I approached the counter tentatively. To be honest, I was reluctant to trust this novice, but I needed a cappuccino in the worst way. Well, maybe not in the worst way, but I needed one none-the-less.
“Hi, may I help you?” the young lady asked politely. Notice that she asked, “May I help you?” not, “can I help you?” This was a good sign; a well-spoken woman. I like that! I’m a stickler for the proper use of the English language. Whenever I hear someone speak incorrectly it’s like fingernails across a chalkboard. And yes, I correct others when they misspeak. They appreciate that.
I’m unswerving in my relentless pursuit of proper language usage; a trait I believe was instilled in me by my English teachers during my years at and my professors in college.
I’m repulsed by errors in my own speech and writing much more than that of others. I check and recheck my written work way past the point that would be considered excessive-compulsive. I hate to make mistakes! I even subscribe to the online versions of the AP Stylebook and the Chicago Manual of Style, both of which I reference frequently.
Proper English notwithstanding, the question still loomed large in my caffeine- riddled brain; can this girl help me; does she have the ability and the skill necessary to help me? She may want to help me, but can she make the perfect cappuccino?
She was a rookie barista, totally inexperienced in the finer points of brewing the quintessential espresso or preparing the properly steamed milk; and downing a botched cappuccino is not a pleasant experience; especially for a coffee aficionado like me.
“I’d like a triple-Grande, skinny vanilla cappuccino, extra hot,” I said, badly in need of a caffeine fix.
“What size?” the young lady asked.
“Ah, I want a….,” I began.
“Oh, Grande, right?” she interrupted.
“Yes, triple” I replied.
“Grande?” she asked.
This was not going well. “Triple-Grande. That’s three shots,” I responded, amazed that I hadn’t yet bounded over the counter and grabbed this fledgling coffee-wench by the throat.
“Okay,” she replied as she punched my order in to the computer and slipped behind the espresso machine.
I swiped my debit card, punched in my PIN number, answered ‘yes’ to the question, ‘Is $4.44 okay?’; answered ‘no’ to the question, ‘Do you want cash back?’; answered ‘yes’ to the question, ‘Do you want it all on the card?” and walked over to the counter to await my drink baffled, as always, by the fact that I had to answer four questions just to pay for my cappuccino. Why can’t they just take my money?
The only transaction more complicated and lengthy is paying for a prescription at . I’d explain it to you, but you really have to experience it for yourself to believe it.
So anyway, the barista-in-training grabbed a Grande-sized cup to make my drink. Things were looking up until she asked, “Do you want foam?”
What? Had she really asked me if I wanted foam? Now I knew I was in trouble. Please allow me to explain.
A cappuccino has fairly equal parts of milk and foam, while a latte is comprised primarily of milk topped with a small amount of foam, making it much milder and milkier than the cappuccino. Therefore, a latte has a much milder taste and since I’m not a mild kind of guy; I prefer the cappuccino. I like the kick. More accurately, I need the buzz. I live for it!
“Yes,” I responded a bit indignantly, “you can’t make a cappuccino without foam!”
“Oh, yeah,” she giggled as she poured the foam into my cup, put a top on it and handed it to me. “All set,” she smiled.
“Thanks,” I replied, hoping against hope that she had made my drink correctly. I sat down at the table where my wife was waiting for me, removed the top from my cup, took a big sip and, to my surprise and delight, found the cappuccino to be flawless.
While we were sitting there the store maintenance man came in and started poking around the little island where they keep all the sugar, napkins, straws and that type of stuff.
He was wearing a t-shirt and a pair of faded jeans draped with a bulky tool belt. He knelt down on the floor and bent over a bit to look under the island, exposing his ‘gluteal cleavage’. I suppose we could just say that the moon came out surprisingly early today.
My wife and I cracked up. Given the situation, maybe ‘cracked up’ was a bad choice of words. I guess the maintenance man was really the one ‘cracking up’. I know that was a cheesy pun, but it seemed like a good idea thirty seconds ago when I wrote it and I’m too lazy to go back and delete it so you’re just going to have to live with it. Hey, don’t complain! If that’s the worst thing that happens to you today, you’re all set.
That’s it for today. I’m heading over to the Mansfield to pick up some hardware to fix my wheelbarrow and then stopping at to pick up pizza and salad for dinner. I’ll be stopping in somewhere to get myself another cappuccino.
Don’t tell my wife. She thinks I drink too much coffee. Can you believe it?
Life is good! Make it a great week!
Bob Havey is a freelance writer and a Mansfield native, currently living in Easton. His column "Take Me Back" appears every Friday at http://mansfield-ma.patch.com.His other column, "The View From Here", may be seen each Tuesday at http://easton-ma.patch.com.