Do you find amusing anecdotes in everyday life? I’ll bet you do! These are the little stories that we share, chuckling, with others. Let’s face it: Life often presents us with the unexpected, and we can often turn these unexpected events into little essays or slices of life. The trick is just to be open to the absurdity of life, and to take time to write these events down as soon as possible after they occur. The little details often add the spice to these essays. I especially like to write about events that have some elements of humor built into them. Then, through writing, I can emphasize the humor. It’s always rewarding to use writing to make others laugh. In that vein, I am sharing a little essay I wrote recently about a trip to Starbucks. I hope you enjoy this.
Half-Caf at the Café
The line at Starbuck’s had stalled. The man in front of me had placed four tall travel mugs on the counter and asked for them to be filled “half with decaf.”
The cashier asked, “And the other half?”
“Regular. Caffeinated,” said the man.
The cashier proceeded to take two of the mugs and fill them from an urn behind her. “We’ll have to do pour-overs for the decaf,” she said brightly.
“Okay,” said the man uncertainly. He then peered into the mugs and said, “But you only put coffee in half of these.”
“Yes, you said you wanted half decaf,” she said.
“No, all of them should be half-decaf,” he responded. He seemed more distraught than the situation merited. Although he wasn’t exactly sweating, he looked like he should be.
“Oh, no problem,” said the cashier. “I misunderstood you.” She spoke with a perkiness that was just a bit excessive. Like someone on their first day at a new job.
She took the two mugs she had filled and emptied half of each into the sink. Returning to the counter, she took the other two mugs and half filled them from the urn. “The decaf part will be in a pour-over,” she said. “It will just take a few minutes.” She then rang up the sale and gave him his receipt.
The mugs still sat on the counter, and it was not clear what he was to do. Perhaps he had noticed what I, too, had noticed. There had been no sign that she had put in an order for any pour-overs, so the situation appeared to be stalled. The cashier looked a bit frazzled now, realizing that she couldn’t ask for the next customer (me) because the man was not budging, and his four mugs were still sitting there.
“How long will the pour-overs take?” the man asked, now showing clear signs of exasperation. I suspect part of his frustration stemmed from her cavalier approach as well as the fact that all four mugs had their lids off, their steamy warmth escaping into the air.
“Oh, let me ask,” she said. It took a few moments for her to flag down a barista who was rushing behind her, on her way to retrieve a breakfast sandwich from the microwave.
“How long will it take to get pour-overs for this customer?” she asked.
The barista paused long enough to view the four half-filled mugs sitting on the counter. When she looked puzzled, the cashier explained the situation as best she could. The barista, in turn, glanced up at the man to get his take on the situation.
“I’m just wondering how long the pour-overs will take,” said the man, “because this part’s getting cold.” He cast a nervous glance toward me and another couple of customers who had joined the line and were watching the scene with increasing interest.
The barista said, “Oh, we already have half-caf brewed,” she said. “It’s over here.” She led the cashier to an urn a small distance from the other urns that held the caffeinated stuff.
I turned to exchange glances with the young man waiting in line behind me. We both rolled our eyes. These things happen at Starbucks all the time, especially, it seems, when one is in hurry. I was not in a terrific hurry this day, nor apparently was the man behind me. We were more bemused than annoyed. Surely the barista had misspoken and had meant to say decaf and not half-caf. How would this end? A veritable tempest in a teacup … er, travel mug!
The cashier took two of the travel mugs over to the newly-discovered urn and filled them, returning them triumphantly to the counter. She no doubt expected a smile from the customer, but instead he said, “Well, if you just added half-caf, doesn’t that make them ¾ caf, and only ¼ decaf? I understood exactly what he was asking, as I had wondered the same thing. I had hoped he hadn’t noticed, but he had.
The cashier said, “I just put in half-caf. Isn’t that what you wanted?”
“I want half-caf,” said the man. “But it was already half full of caf, and you added half-caf.”
At this, the cashier looked totally at a loss. “I guess I don’t understand what you want!”
The barista, eyeing the situation from nearby, now approached and asked, “What’s the problem?
The man explained that adding half-caf to a mug that already contained half a mug of caf results in ¾ caf. Clear enough to all of us who attended fifth grade. The guy behind me, and I, stifled chuckles.
The barista explained, “Oh, no, the urn over there is decaf.” This contradicted her earlier pronouncement that it was half-caf. What a difference a prefix makes! Again, I flashed back to fifth grade.
The man seemed mollified, and the cashier now proceeded to add the decaf to the remaining two mugs. She lined them up on the cramped counter, and the man transported them, two by two, to the counter hosting the cream, sugar, stir sticks, etc.
I ordered my short brewed coffee. Simple enough.
As the cashier turned her back momentarily to fill my cup from the urn, the guy behind me commented, “I think that man is still confused.” He nodded toward the corner where the man was busily pouring additions into his four travel mugs. “Look at him! He’s over there adding half and half to half of his half-cafs!”
That totally cracked me up. Well, not totally. Only about half.
Note: Okay, that ‘s my little essay. Some may not consider this memoir, but I put it in the memoir basket along with all the other chapters and essays I’ve worked on. After all, it is a story of something that happened in my life. I hope this has inspired you to look for humor, or the unexpected, in your everyday life. And, I hope you will take the time to write down such events and bring out the elements that seem most important, or amusing, to you. We hope to hear from you with samples of your work!