Kassandra was glad to see the art professor, Marilyn, in the coffee shop with a new friend. The professor had seemed a bit different lately, to Kassandra’s practiced barista eye. A little off. Sometimes, not often, but once in a while, Kassandra would have to prompt Marilyn with her usual order. Or remind her to add the cream that she’d left room for when pouring the rich Americano liquid into the extra-large to-go cup. Because Kassandra was so very young, still in her early twenties, to her Marilyn inhabited a territory of “older” that stretched from about age forty-five to somewhere north of eighty. Even so, Kassandra thought it awfully early for Marilyn to show signs of memory loss, and hoped it was just the stress of life getting to her, rather than that terrible Alzheimer’s disease.
Kassandra watched Marilyn and her new friend – Franny? Was that the name Marilyn had used? – gather up their to-go cups and leave for a walk, looking softly happy, setting out into the chilly winter afternoon. She smiled. Friends were good, hers always helped her feel less stressed, and she wished the same for Marilyn.
The next customer repeated her order in a rather grumpy tone, Kassandra thought, but she didn’t mention it. She simply smiled more broadly and apologized for her momentary lack of attention, and hastened to ring up the drink’s cost. Grumpy customers rarely got to Kassandra, especially this type. The customer wasn’t quite in that “older” territory, probably still in her thirties, trying for all the world to look like a cross between a soccer mom and a Barbie doll. Her hair, skin, and teeth were all unnaturally altered in color – hair too blond, with dark roots; skin too tan, with an orange tint; and teeth far too white. The type of customer, Kassandra reflected, who would complain about a drink taking more than two minutes even if the apocalypse was happening around them.
The kind of customer who could complain about the coffee shop being dark when the whole downtown was out of power, or who would moan about having to wait to sip her non-fat soy vanilla latte with extra artificial sugar, ordered extra-hot, because the drink was delivered to her “extra-extra” hot.
Kassandra smiled through it all, because those customers were in the distinct minority. Most of the people who came through her line were friendly, patient, funny, and kind, and especially generous with their tips when they knew Kassandra was in college. Most of her customers were more like Marilyn, the regulars becoming like a family, almost.
So Kassandra could tune out the grumpy artificial hair-artificial sugar types, and smile at them without ever really taking in their grumpiness. Little did she know this made them even more grumpy. For what is a good entitlement tantrum with no appreciative audience?