Black Coffee

You can tell a lot about a man by the coffee he drinks.

This week, a hard worn, motorcycle mechanic has been stopping-in for his daily Cup A Joe at a local coffee shop.

You’re probably thinking black coffee with extra grinds for flavoring.

Guess again.

Each time, this mechanic has ordered a caramel frappacino. No big deal. The coffee shop makes the drink everyday.

But in each instance we’ve made his drink, he’s stopped us.

“Did you put caramel drizzle inside the cup first?” He asks.

“Yes.” We say as he proceeds to inspect his drink.

Who knew caramel drizzle inside a cup, rather than on top, meant so much. Apparently, it does. These types of requests are common. And some customers can be pretty particular and immediate in their demands.

For example, some request an exact temperature, number of syrup pumps, type of sprinkle, wetness or dryness of their cappuccino. You get the idea.

At some point, as an employee, you have to make peace with the particularity of your customers.

But I haven’t reached that point with many, including the motorcycle mechanic.


Aside from the glaringly obvious reason that demanding customers are difficult, customers like the mechanic are a reasonable reflection of why our country has changed, arguably for the worse:

Countless times, daily, customers place high demands for what they want, then, pay with a credit card: a good reflection of our economy. We demand luxury at high cost when we cannot bankroll those niceties.

Our reflection is hard to behold: Generally, we’re overweight, self-absorbed, self indulgent, in parts vain, and a cardinal of other unlovely sins.

One look at our obesity rate, credit card debt, fixation with cosmetic surgery, and decrease in volunteerism support these claims. It’s unfair to speak in generalities to the innocent, but when the guilty remain in our ranks (and I’m one), all face the punishment. The innocent still have to pay taxes that bail out the greedy and are lost in the black hole that has become our entitlement-based economy.

The mechanic is my favorite, though, not because he’s a bad guy, cheats on his wife, doesn’t pay taxes, or any other dark shading of his character. I don’t really know him. The reason is that he’s a good indicator of what we’ve become.

Thirty years ago – maybe, less – mechanics went to diners and ordered coffee. In my memory the blue-collar guys in movies always ordered black coffee. When Flo, Darla, or Sue warmed their cup and called them honey, these guys smiled, flirted, and flashed a glint in their eyes.

Not the customer I came across. Forget black coffee. He was intent on that drizzle. It couldn’t be on top, had to be inside the cup.

I can’t remember if he paid with his credit card as so many others do, but the fact remains: we Americans are abusing the credit, literal and figurative, that the “Greatest Generation” so nobly earned.

Many influences shaped this generation’s noble characters: religion, the Great Depression, patriotism, sense of duty, selflessness, and conviction.

Perhaps, our bankruptcy will forge ours, and black coffee will regain its value.

Posted in Perspective