(Times Burned: 2; Wrong Orders: 8; Customers I Want to Slam Over the Head with a Skillet: 2, Major Catastrophes: 3)
It’s a little past one at DD, and the early shifters have left, leaving just the four of us there for the afternoon. The shift leader puts me at the front counter with one-month veteran Natasha (Note: Real names replaced for privacy purposes), but she is quickly dispatched to help the other two employees manage the busy drive-thru window. I watch them hurriedly assemble bagel sandwiches and iced tea, while I pace back and forth behind the cash register, noticing that for once, I feel completely alone. No worries, I figure, since afternoons here are relatively slow.
Before I know it, a middle-aged, tired-looking woman and her grown daughter are in front of me.
“Anything you want, Mom,” the daughter says, as the two of them scan the menu overhead. “My treat.” It takes a little while, but the mother decides on a Medium Toasted Almond Coffee, Sweet n’ Lite. The daughter orders a Small Hazelnut Iced Coffee, Lite with Three Splendas. I move instinctively towards the Iced Coffee dispenser, grab two cups and start filling them with ice. I’m halfway done when the mother pipes up, “Excuse me, I ordered a HOT coffee.” Cursing my stupidity, I ditch the cups, head to the hot coffee dispenser, and frantically start assembling.
“This sugar machine isn’t working,” I mutter to Natasha, who is beside me filling a drive-thru order. She nods, not really listening and dashes off with a coffee. Furious at the sugar machine, which never seems to work for me, I jab the Medium button repeatedly, the machine giving off feeble little spurts with every press. Finally, the little mound of sugar comes rushing out, and I grab a lid, forcing it onto the cup with a little more difficulty than is normal. But by the time I’m finished making the daughter’s coffee, her mother is back at the counter.
“I asked for Sweet and Lite. This isn’t Lite,” she says, now a little cross.
“So sorry, ma’am,” I say, though in my head I’m screaming, “I made it a FUCKING Lite!! If you need a thousand liters of cream to dull the strength of coffee, then don’t fucking drink it, like I do. Geesh.” I’m already back at the dairy machine, adding more cream. By now, the cup is overflowing, and a nice ladleful sloshes onto my wrist as I set it down. Owwww. I knock over the coffee funnel, which clatters on the ground. Frodo (he looks like Elijah Wood) over at the Drive-Thru turns around and laughs at me. The coffee cup that I return to the woman is dripping wet.
“So sorry about…the wetness. Yeah…” I nervously giggle. The woman does not smile back. The queue that has lined up behind them is half thinking of leaving. They stare at me, wondering if they can trust a newbie with their coffee fix. Later, as I am dunking the funnel in antiseptic, I wonder when I’ll ever improve.
However, the day isn’t a complete fail. A sunny, short old man with his tall wife amble into the store later, and they’re the mellow, joking type.
“Can I have a donut?” he asks, turning to her like a kid in a candy factory.
“No, you most certainly cannot have a doughnut,” replies she.
“Two donuts, then.” I grin as they playfully bicker. They don’t complain when I drop the paper bag I was attempting to shake open with one hand or when it takes me a little longer to make their decaf iced coffees.
“You new here?” he pokes.
“You guessed it,” I say, looking down at my tired feet. “Is it that obvious?”
“Nah,” he expertly lies, waving his hand at me. “Listen. You get better at it.”
“Boy, I sure hope so,” I say. He chuckles.
“Pick up your sandwich here, sir,” Frodo calls out from the other counter.
“Bye, dear,” both of them say. On their way out, the old man looks back and calls, “Remember. You’ll get better at it, yeah?” I wave to them, and take a moment to lean my clumsy self against the front counter, savoring a rare moment of peace. “I sure hope so,” I whisper to the racks of glistening donuts lined up for duty and the funnel I dropped, now dry and sparkling clean.