1 The Other Side of One Latte a Day | The Billfold

The Other Side of One Latte a Day

Until recently I had a really great morning routine going, which isn’t much to brag about as its singular ambition was “get to the library by 11 a.m.” but nevertheless, the routine was mine and I cherished it. I woke up around 9, laid in bed reading the internet on my phone for way too long, had breakfast probably also in bed reading the internet on my phone, then took a shower, got ready, meditated (thank you, Oprah), and walked four blocks to the library. On the way to the library I would go to the same deli every day and pay $2.50 for a bottle of tea that is allegedly harvested in the Amazon and bottled in Brooklyn. PERRRFECT. As much as a small part of me suspects this tea might actually be poison, it is very energizing (90mg of caffeine per bottle), sugar free, and makes me feel good about my free radicals.

After about Day Two of buying this tea, the young guy that works at the deli said something like, “Hello my beautiful baby! So you really like this tea?”

“Uhh, yeah!”

He walked out from behind the counter and over to the refrigerator where my beloved Amazonian teas were lined up. We both peered in, quiet.

“So, which one do you like best? I’ll make sure we always have it for you.”

This seemed thoughtful if not predicated on me allowing him to continue calling me his beautiful baby. I hesitated, weighing the pros and cons of dealing with his benign but still violating affection for me and having a reliable source for this product I’d convinced myself was primarily responsible for the 4,000 words I had written the morning before.

“The green one!” I told him, and we made our way together back to the counter.

“Okay my darling, I will order it for you and it will always be here. Have a beautiful day.”

So from then on for months I cringed a little as I opened the door and tried to sneak over to my tea supply — always well-stocked — in the back right corner.

“Good morning beautiful, the light of my life!”

I’d give him three dollars, he’d give me 50 cents, I’d hobble with my laptop and my tea over to the library and buzzed on antioxidants and poison I would write thousands of unusable words.

Then one weekend my boyfriend decided to make iced tea. It was not from the Amazon so much as a box of Lipton, but I put it in one of my old Guayasa bottles, feeling just a tinge of betrayal, and took a different route to the library each morning.

A week or so later, the vat of iced tea ran out and I was back at the deli, my tail between my legs. My exotic tea shelf was overflowing.

When I handed the cashier my three dollars without commentary, he didn’t call me beautiful or ask how my day was. He did look at me sideways though as he handed me my change.

“So, baby, did you go on vacation or something?”

Embarrassed, I looked past him out the glass door. It was getting colder out, soon I would need warm tea, or even coffee. I looked back at him.

“Yep, I went on vacation. To Florida. With my family.”

“Florida! How beautiful.”

“Yes, it was wonderful. Have a great day!” I raised my bottle of tea in the air and hurried out the door.


Photo: Paul Lowry


30 Comments / Post A Comment

Liz the Lemur (#3,125)

Oh man. In my imaginary world, I would politely but firmly say…something. I can’t even actually think of what to say. In real life I would find another library with another coffee shop. Or start paying truant kids to go in and get tea for me.

gyip (#4,192)

Yeah. I like being a regular at places, but wow, they can get awkward. Nothing like this so far (sorry this got so weird for you!), but I don’t like having the same thing every day. I’ve stopped going to places because they’d try to prep my order for me and I’d feel too awkward to contradict them.

allreb (#502)

@gyip I’m working on this now. I have a regular order at Starbucks (literally just a plain coffee) but I use the app on my phone so every 12 drinks, I get one free – but it seems like it has to be the next one I order. And if I’m getting a free drink, it might as well be a fancy one! So now I have to mentally prepare myself to tell the cute scruffy dude who hands me my coffee without asking what I want that actually I want something else. This is not actually a big deal, and yet I went to an entirely different Starbucks yesterday to avoid it!

Meaghano (#529)

@allreb Big deal or no, I am genuinely stressed out for you. Ha!

aetataureate (#1,310)

@allreb This one lady at my Starbucks guesses at my order ONLY because she finds it delightful (a “tall blonde”) so we laugh but I only get that item like half the time and it never stops being a question (“A tall blonde?”).

At some point the predictive prep starts to feel like . . . Crass time-saving effort? Like, don’t front-load your work based on how you assume the same thing about me every day.

gyip (#4,192)

@allreb Haha, I know the “must get fancy drink for free!” feeling. Problem is I don’t really like most of SB’s super fancy drinks and I don’t drink a lot (usually tall at most). So I’m leaning towards a hot chocolate … but I don’t drink those every day! :| I wasted my last reward on a boring ol’ tall cappuccino.

xenu01 (#4,239)

@allreb It’s so sad, because everyone thinks they are helping, not stressing you out! I was a barista for a while, and the reason I started making drinks for people before they had even ordered was because they were for people who always ordered the same drink. Like this lady:
“I want a latte, but I don’t want one shot and I don’t want two- can you do, like, 2 and a half shots? And I don’t want it hot enough to burn your mouth but I want it very hot, you know? And I want extra foam, and make it soy.”

And she came in every day, and she always ordered the same thing. We had a bunch of those, as well as people who just expected you to know:

“I’ll have my usual.”
“What’s your usual, sir?”
“The one I order every day? Half-caf latte, no foam?”


But I get you! Here is what I would do: next time you go to your regular coffee place where they know your order, say, “Hey, I really appreciate you always getting my order ready for me, but actually I like variety in my life, so please don’t do that anymore.”

shannowhamo (#845)

@allreb I did the free drink thing at Starbuck but I always paid with the physical card and then just told them when I wanted to use my free drink. I know I got my regular cheap drink a few times before I felt like cashing in my freebie. Do they automatically apply it when you use the app? I tracked my balance and everything with the app but always paid with the card for some reason ( I think I just liked that it was gold and had my name on it!)

jquick (#3,730)

@gyip I too get FREE sbux drinks and want to order something more expensive, but not a big coffee person (my usual is green tea lemonade). I suggest a reg or skinny peppermint mocha latte. Those are very tasty…and pricey.

aetataureate (#1,310)

@jquick I got the skinny peppermint mocha and you were right, it’s great! I also love the regular salted caramel mocha, if you’re in the mood for 500 delicious calories.

But really I came back to say the barista tried to predict me this morning and had already rung up what she thought I wanted when I started to say “Can I get a skinny soy . . . “

TheDilettantista (#1,255)

So awkward and man I know this story. My mother actually stopped going to a (very good) Italian place in my hometown because the owner got too flirty.

My story like this ends with me yelling “LOOK, I KNOW WHAT ‘FLACA’ MEANS, OK?’ then not being able to go to the bodega on my corner for like a year.

andnowlights (#2,902)

I feel like there are multiple sides to this.

On one hand, as someone who worked retail in the past, I had several frequent customers that I got very attached to (and even invited a couple to my wedding/ were devastated when they died). They became friends and we appreciated their loyalty.

On the other hand, I do NOT like people assuming a more comfortable relationship with me when it is not reciprocal. I am SUPER friendly, but only up to a point and the guy crossed the line in terms of being overly familiar. Also, you do not owe anything, not money nor loyalty, to any place, especially when it starts making you uncomfortable. You don’t have an obligation to them just because they stock your tea for you. You didn’t ask them to or make a commitment to buy it from them. Maybe look online to see if they sell your tea online? Probably cheaper too.

aetataureate (#1,310)

@andnowlights There’s definitely a line between appreciating and guilting. Like you said, it’s not a subscription. I can’t decide if the guilting is worse than the creepy pet-naming though, which is another case where there’s a line and this guy has crossed it. Bad at retail, bad at attitudes!

Meaghano (#529)

@aetataureate Yeah, it’s funny I didn’t mean to make so much of the mild creepiness, I set out to write a quick thing about my somewhat bizarre guilt/loyalty to buying tea from this guy. But I guess my discomfort, even if I wasn’t acknowledging it to myself, was part of the whole dynamic.

But I did find tea bags of this tea in a fancy grocery store recently! So now I have been making it at home and it’s warm and great, just not as caffeinated, and I haven’t seen the guy in forever.

xenu01 (#4,239)

@Meaghano Oh man I wish I knew what to do in situations like this, because I really do not. I mean, there is a laundromat near me that is so convenient but the guy who runs it is awful. He doesn’t creep on me (except in the “she’s a good little woman who obeys her husband”) kind of way, but I now avoid the place like the plague because I got tired of his intrusive nature and habit of trying to talk trash about other customers, etc. So we go somewhere else where the washers break a lot but there’s no one up front staring you down as you do your laundry.

lapgiraffe (#1,336)

I had to have a sort of breakup with my bodega when I moved to a new neighborhood. He always had my wine, cold cans of diet coke, and other specialities for me, and noticed every time I backed off for a few days. I thought about disappearing, but felt that I owed him a goodbye after three mostly pleasant years. He still gets excited and gives me hugs when we run into each other, thankfully that’s a once a year occurrence, if that.

guenna77 (#856)

i ended up in a similar situation with one of the doormen/receptionists in a building i used to live in. i thought it would be prudent to be on good terms with the guy that lets me in the door at 3AM and would let me in my apt when i got locked out (frequently) even though i was supposed to pay extra for that key. i would chat with him for a few minutes before heading upstairs. then it escalated… the conversations got weirder. he gave me a valentine’s day card. then he asked me to read the poetry he’d written and gave me a file folder full of it- one memorably titled ‘body of a woman.’ and that was the moment i decided i needed to move.

Meaghano (#529)

@guenna77 omg

xenu01 (#4,239)

@guenna77 SECONDED WTF

LB (#3,427)

I understand where this comes from. When I used to work at Starbucks, there were regular customers who came in everyday expecting their order (down to the already mixed in Splenda) to be ready. I even became real life friends with a few regulars.

On the flip side, I’ve stopped going to places once I’m a regular because it stresses me out.

What is this magical 4000 words per morning tea, tho?!

Meaghano (#529)

@Melissa Graeber@facebook hiiii! it is this: http://runa.org/

jquick (#3,730)

@Meaghano I have a free coupon for one of these, but haven’t used it cuz I’ve never heard of them before. Now I’ll try the green one. Thanks for the tip.

Marge (#4,715)

It’s cultural. I don’t want to wave aside problems with street harassment and misogyny but American culture is not big on complimenting women is it?


Eric18 (#4,486)

@Marge I don’t necessarily think you can generalize about all American males. I will say in my experience, men from the South tend to compliment women far more often than men from the NE. They are usually more polite too. Again, just observations.

I had these kind of experiences all the time when I lived in NYC but only there. The baristas at our Starbucks knew my boyfriend and me by sight which was great when there was a line (but sucked if we were ever in the mood for something different). And at the pizza place, the old owner would throw in garlic knots with our order all the time especially if it was me picking up the pizza.

There was also a deli that I would pass and it was the only one on my walk home that carried Pepsi Max. The owner was an old man and called me “my darling” in a sweet, not creepy way. One time the soda I bought was expired by a year and I felt terrible taking it back.

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