Tuesday, August 03, 2004

Beware the Cinnamon

Taking inspiration from QueSeraSera, I am reminded of a story that was quite similar to hers.

My friend George and I were hanging around in the Village one late spring night, and it was one of those evenings when you can't decide whether you want something hot or cold to drink - sort of like the type of climate I imagine surrounds the scene when you watch a television show filmed in California, and in the same scene you could see someone in a tank top and shorts, and the person they are talking to is in long pants and a sweater. Not too hot, not too cold, just right, Goldilocks.

We came across a chain ice cream store, one who's name escapes me after all these years, so I don't wish to guess. George decided he was in the mood for ice cream, and I saw that they also had cappuccino, so we were both satisfied. The cappuccino craze was fairly new at that point, and Starbucks had yet to be invented, so you got your cappucino wherever you could find it.

We sat down with our treats, and I stirred my beautifully aromatic cinammon topped cappuccino, letting it cool down a bit, while George tucked into his ice cream. We were gossiping and chatting about this and that, and I brought my cup to my lips. Just before I took a sip, I glanced into the cup and noticed that the stirring had brought all of the cinnamon together into the center, and made a great big lump of cinnamon, ripe to get stuck in the back of my throat if I drank it down that way. Anyone who's done this will testify to the unpleasant gagging that follows.

I put the cup down to stir out the lump, and then, on closer inspection, noticed that the lump had wings. Oh my God! You couldn't know how happy I was that I hadn't had any to drink yet! Whatever kind of flying creature was nesting in the center of my cappuccino didn't matter to me, except that this was something that I was NOT about to injest. You think the cinnamon lump makes you gag! There was no way I wanted anything to do with cinnamon, cappuccino, coffee or milk products of any type after this revelation, and especially not from that place. I was skeeved.

George noticed my look of horror and disgust, and wanted to know what was wrong. Rather calmly, considering how completely disgusted I was, I told him that the cinnamon lump had wings. You know how those cheap '70's paintings of little kids with the gigantic shiny black eyes look? That pretty much sums up the look on George's face at that moment. He asked me what I was going to do, and I scooped the creature onto the lid of my coffee cup, and said that I was going to quietly show them the problem, and get my money back.

I put the lid on top of the coffee, and held it in between my fingertips by the rim, and low to my side, a posture I figured would look rather nonchalant. I waited for a small line to dissipate. I figured that I wasn't going to march up in front of all of those people with Mothra in my drink, and gross them all out, too. Rather, I'd be cool about it, and not embarrass the staff.
After the line was gone, I very quietly whispered to the next clerk, "There was a bug in my cappuccino", and then raised my hand off of the lid enough for them to see the evidence, but discretely, so no one else could see. I figured, hey, I'm being cool about this, they will see the obvious problem, and I'll get my refund in a snap.

There would be no story if that is the way it transpired.

The clerk rather dully looked at me with a question mark for a face. Hoping to make the obvious even more obvious, I pressed on. "Of course, I don't want this drink anymore." "Oh, uh, okay." was his attempt at a reply, and he took the cup away from me. I was slightly reluctant to relinquish my evidence to him, since he didn't seem to grasp the situation at hand very well. And I will admit to you that I was also kind of expecting someone to say thank you for not chasing away every customer in the place by screaming, "BUG!!", because truthfully, that was my very first (stifled) impulse.

I watched the dull clerk walk over to another clerk, and tried to keep the trail of evidence in my view. I figured that he might be new, and had to ask a more senior clerk what the procedure was for giving a refund in these cases.

In the meantime, more customers had filed into the store, and a few were lined up in front of where Dull Clerk and more Senior Clerk were having their conference. However, while I had been cool and calm when I brought the BUG to their attention, they were anything but. I heard the following snippets of conversation from my position further down the counter:

Senior Clerk: (Loudly) "What's her problem?"

Dull Clerk: (A little softer) "There's a fly. In her drink."

Third Budinksi Clerk: (Loudly, from the far side of the counter) "What's the matter?"

Dull Clerk and Senior Clerk: (Louder still) "A fly!"

Third: "Oh, a fly in her cappuccino?"

Senior: "Yeah!"

Fourth Idiot: "A fly in the cappuccino machine?"

To my amazement, they were YELLING at each other about the infestation of my treat, in front of their line of customers, the very thing I had tried not to do myself. And to my further amazement, no one left the line.

I wasn't sure what they had all decided to do at this point, but I patiently stood there at the counter, still shaking my head at how stupid they all must be, when I became aware of a noise. A loud buzzing noise. The cappuccino machine! They were making another cappuccino!

How could anyone standing on that line order a cappuccino when they'd all just been treated to a conversation about vermin in the cappuccino, and maybe they even saw the offending drink with their own eyes, thanks to the oh-so-subtle workers, mere seconds ago? But then I noticed that the line of people had dispelled, and the machine noise raged on.

Oh no...(my mind caught on in the slow-motion way that the Six Million Dollar man used to run)... they don't possibly think that I wanted a replacement infesticcino! From the same machine? Who could be that insensitive?

This horrible thought no sooner crystallized in my mind, when Dull Clerk waddled over with, yes, a replacement infesticcino.

"No, no way, I didn't want another one. I want my money back." I sputtered.

"We don't give refunds." Mr. Dull told me.

"What? Let me talk to the manager." I was beside myself, while the clerks exchanged rolled eyes amongst themselves, and Dull Clerk waddled back to confer with the manager.

The Manager strode over, and asked what the problem was (which was aggravating, since I just SAW Dull Clerk explain it all to him.) I explained about the bug, and repeated the request for a refund. His answer? "We don't give refunds."

The usual timid me completely backed out of the way when the incensed Schlitz Malt Liquor Bull side of me took over the conversation.

"WHAT?? Listen, your guy here just served me a drink with a BUG in it. I very calmly returned the drink, and they tried to made me take a new drink. There is NO WAY I am drinking a cappuccino out of that dirty machine, or having anything else here for that matter, after that disgusting episode. Cappuccino time is done for tonite. Done! I tried to be nice about this, and be quiet in front of the customers, but your employees here were yelling about the bug in my drink, so I see no more reason to be quiet about this. I don't give a damn about your ridiculous policy. I want my money back, and I want it NOW."

(The second after unloading on this guy, I felt a nauseating mixture of guilt and fear with a little pride mixed in. Hey, I stood up for myself! But Oh dear God, what if he yells back at me? Whimper.) On my surface, I remained steadfast.

After considering my tirade for a silent moment, the Manager must've seen that the bull had been unleashed and was more powerful than the mouse inside for the moment, and he wisely conceded defeat. He wordlessly handed me the refund. I thanked him politely, and went back to George.

I've had many more cappuccinos since that episode years ago, but I must admit that I still have a healthy distrust of lumpy cinnamon.

This site is certified 38% EVIL by the Gematriculator