Panic at The Starbucks

Linking up with Yeah Write #42!

If you were choking on a hotdog I would calmly come up behind you and give you the Heimlich Maneuver. If you needed CPR, I’d be down on the ground in a minute, no panic, no problemo. If there was an armed robbery I’d freak a bit, but certainly wouldn’t soil myself.

But ask me to order a latte at Starbucks? Total anxiety.

It starts on the ride to Starbucks.

I should really be supporting an independent coffee shop. They actually have normal sizes. What’s wrong with the words small, medium and large?

But the closest independent coffee shop has a gnat problem and a lot of hanging plants that house small spiders.

I hate spiders. Emily told me that statistic about how many spiders a person accidentally consumes in their lifetime. I’ve lost sleep over that one. I can’t do the spidery coffee shop. What is that? Is something crawling on me?

I attempt to park in front of Starbucks. There are three mini-vans parked with enough space in between them to park a VW Bug stuffed with fifty clowns. Why are women afraid of parallel parking? Just back the fuck up, people. I circle the block and park next to a dumpster. Best morning ever.

This particular Starbucks is filled to capacity. There’s a guy in line handing out financial planning pamphlets and offering to buy strangers coffee. Avert your eyes, avert your eyes. Wait, why isn’t he buying me a coffee? Do I look unfriendly? Do I look weird? I look weird. I am unfriendly and weird. It’s the hair. There’s a spider in my hair, isn’t there?

The Starbucks employees are chirpy and well caffeinated. They are moving too fast. They talk loudly. They seem to know all of the customers by name.

Linda Jo! How’s the baby? Are you having your usual Venti Triple Breve Salted Carmel No Whip Five Pump Power Latte?

Hey Steve! How’s the new job? Can I blend you up your usual 5,000 Calorie Extra Venti Grande Soy Lo-Fat Full Whip No Pump Smoothie Mocha?

I wait in line, trying to be soothed by the Jazz Greats Starbucks Special CD tunes coming from the ceiling tile speakers. But I am beginning to sweat.

Shit, what do I want? What do I want? Okay, I want a medium-sized kind of sweet but not too sweet latte. What do they call that here?

The customer before me steps up to the cash register. The tall handsome buzz cut cutie flashes her a winning smile. In a matter of seconds she’s ordered her drink. There appears to be some sort of way to how she described her drink. Was it size, then the name of the drink? Or was it the name of the drink followed by the size? My heart begins to pound. There’s a long line behind me.

I practice my order in my head: Grande three pump one percent vanilla latte. Grande three pump one percent vanilla latte. Grande three pump one percent vanilla latte.

I can do this. I can’t do this. I can do this.

I step up to the register. The tall handsome buzz cut cutie looks at me. I look at him. He raises his eyebrows. I smile nervously. Uh, hi! I say. The man behind me sighs. A woman behind him taps her foot. There are bananas in a basket at the register. I get distracted.

Why are they selling bananas at Starbucks? Bananas don’t really go with coffee. How odd. Gosh, when is the last time I ate a banana? Ha ha ha. There are so many great banana jokes.

The employee at the register clears his throat. Do you need some help deciding? he asks. My throat goes dry. My tongue feels like a dried out sponge.

I sputter: I’ll have a tall latte vanilla two pump venti soy americano teabag.

Suddenly I’m laughing nervously and very aware of my anxiety related mild urinary incontinence issue.

I take a deep breath, do ten Kegels and sputter: Wait, wait! I mean, a vanilla slightly sweet, but not too sweet, latte with that milk that’s not totally without fat but not totally with fat.

The guy at the cash register gets a slightly sad, slightly sweet look on his face. It has dawned on him that I am most likely developmentally disabled.

You mean you want a grande three pump one percent vanilla latte (right, crazy lady)?

Yes! Yes! That’s what I mean. (Tinkle.)

The people in line behind me audibly sigh. It looks like the cute counter guy is going to pat me on the head, but he’s really leaning toward me to signal that I need to pay. I give him my credit card, he hands it back to me and motions toward the small crowd that is gathered around drink depository area.

It is then that I realize that I have to figure out which drink is mine among all the other drinks seemingly scrawled with hieroglyphics. Luckily I carry a brown paper bag in my purse for just these moments.

126 thoughts on “Panic at The Starbucks

  1. Awww. We aren’t all that bad. Just ask us and we’ll help. Oh and the bananas are there to help with the crash you’ll have later. And are a good alternate to the sugarfatyummy in the pastry case :)
    a Starbucks guru.

    • I actually haven’t met a barista I didn’t like. It’s the pressure of the line, my saggy brain, the lack of caffeine before ordering. It all equals a spastic bladder situation. Maybe Starbucks needs to have social workers on board? XO

    • Paige, I’m going to have to start going to the drive-through. A woman needs her dignity. As long as I can keep from hitting the little speaker where I have to give my order…that could be a challenge!

  2. I feel for/with you, my sweet. My wifey wants a carmon cavalyeero spritzer with dandylion salted sugar flakes or something like that. And wants a tall in a grande cup, or vice versa. And needs extra foam(am so embarrassed mentioning that) and who knows what else. I walk in, when ordered to, and order, “smallest coffee please.” For which I pay a gawd awful way too much for the nickel worth of product presented, and it is bitter as crap to boot. However….it feels good to be there and smells much nicer than your dog’s scull, I suspect!!

    • Ah, Ron, my friend, has my father been talking about my smelly dog? I suspect so. Yes, I do steal away to Starbucks to escape my stinky dog, and disheveled house. Though I much prefer Oblique Coffee Roasters in SE Portland. Great owners, no weird menu. And amazing coffee roasted right there in front of you. Unfortunately it’s too far to travel when T’s preschool is approximately 15 minutes *in Jen time.

      So, extra foam, huh? That’s a lot of pressure for one guy.

      • You compared doggy’s scull to Paul’s…. I was trying to be allusional. Your words try to evoke sensation; the devil is in the details. And that one cracked me up! Do you not recall?

  3. Loved your story…..I actually laughed out loud…..almost to tears when got to the part whre you notice the banana’s. I can relate to moments like these.

    I’ll look forward to reading more from you!!

    • Grandma Nancy, Thanks so much for taking a moment to have a laugh! My brain gets all tangled up by things like bananas at Starbucks. Or Starbucks in a Target. Incongruity. ACK!

      All best to you!

  4. hahahahaha! That post-pregnancy incontinence. It’ll get you every time. I never thought about it- but you’re so right- I drive with compulsion to Starbucks, anxious for my drink- and then get to the drive-through window and have absolutely no idea what I want. It makes zero sense. This post is funny…. :)

    • Yes! That blank feeling that comes over you when you step up to order! You know what I’m talking about. You’d think it’s a presidential debate and there’s a crowd waiting for your brilliance. Note to self: It’s only coffee. It’s only coffee. :)

  5. I’d like a grade bold drip in a venti cup filled to the top with cream please… Oh, make that a grande miso, breve with more coffee than cream… Actually, a tall Americano with no steamed water – just add cream…..

  6. Hahahahha!!!

    First, I LOVE to parallel park. True the mini van has a back up camera, but I did it before then.
    Second, I only order a cafe americano (tall) or a caft mocha (tall). Because I know what they are and tall is the cheapest size.
    Third, if I am childless and I go in to order, I behave as if I am on Seinfeld in front of the Soup Nazi. I too get the nerves, and just want to get out of there.

    • I love to parallel park, too! It’s like a puzzle! Or a riddle: How many times can I lightly tap that bumper before some crazy person runs out of Starbucks and yells at me (at which point I pretend to cry and they feel so guilty they buy me a latte)? Going into Starbucks with three kids just amps my anxiety up to an unbearable level. I ended up buying them donuts and running out like a chicken. XO

  7. Now you see the need to join up with your local coffee clatch or at least book club, these women know their coffee! And besides, it takes a Rosetta Stone quick course to know how to pronounce half of the names of the coffees! Oh, and look into the bladder sling, you’ll thank me forever and ever! :)

    • Beth, I think I’m going to have to check out the bladder swing. The third pregnancy pretty much kicked the crap outta my poor leaky bladder. Thanks so much for reading!

  8. I just LOVE this post!!! Even though, I have to admit to being one of those mini-van driving moms afraid of parking!! So glad to find you on Twitter!! Very happily following you!!

    • Hi Kathy,

      Never fear parking the mini-van. Just put it in reverse, close your eyes, say a little prayer and back up. When you feel the tiny tap on your bumper it means you’ve gone far enough. Hope that helps! So happy to be hanging out with you on Twitter :)

  9. I’ve never been a coffee drinker, let alone a high pressure fancy pants coffee drinker, but I still laughed myself silly reading this. I have the heardest time convincing the dude at my local coffee shop that all I want is a bag of tea in hot water!

    • Hi Cookie’s Mom, You are the smart one! We should all be drinking tea. Just a bag and some hot water. Why is America drinking coffee milkshakes with mil

      But, you see, I do like honey in my tea. And sometimes milk which could make for tricky ordering. Twitch, twitch.

  10. The Drive-Thru is a great way to practice ordering. Way less pressure!
    I once asked my daughter (when she was about 2 years old) what she wanted for lunch and she replied, “grande non-fat latte.” Ah… building vocabulary at all ages! :)
    Very funny post.

  11. Jen, darling, mammaleh. Come visit. We’ll go on some Starbucks coffee ordering training trips.
    P.S. I read your post on my phone at Starbucks while enjoying a Grande sweetened iced coffee in a Venti cup with extra room.

      • First, you need the extra room for lots of milk (mostly nonfat but a splash of whole to make it creamy and pretty as it swirls down). Second, you have the option of having extra ice but it’s iced enough already and all that ice would just water it down.

  12. I always order the same thing at Starbucks. A medium coffee. You mean a tall? Whatever a medium is. Do you want steamed milk in that? Nope. Iced? Nope. A caramel dipping sauce with a coconut garnish? Nope, I’ll put the milk and sugar in myself. They look at me like I am CRAZY.

  13. Hey Jen –
    The bananas are for when you have your kids with you and they are telling you they are “starving.” Tell them they can have a banana. If they say no, you will know that they just want a sugary treat. But if they say yes, they are really hungry. This worked like a charm when I was taking care of a friend’s son (I was his nanny from 2 to 3). I would tell him it was all he could have – that and milk. I always knew if he was trying to just get a treat.

  14. I have no idea what you just said. At all. Because I have never ordered a coffee at Starbucks. Or anywhere.

    Mountain Dew is not complicated.

    To avoid future panic attacks, put your drink on a note card next to your credit card – so you can cue yourself on what you order. Or put it in the notepad (or other) app on a cell phone.

    Just to help with the performance ordering anxiety. :-)

  15. I never get the order *order* right. I tend to leave out cup size altogether. Kinda like I’m suggesting they surprise me! *jazz hands* but then toss a martini shaker at the barista Tom Cruise in Cocktail style.

    The bananas always make me sad.

  16. I actually haven’t met a barista I didn’t like. It’s the pressure of the line, my saggy brain, the lack of caffeine before ordering. It all equals a spastic bladder situation. Maybe Starbucks needs to have social workers on board?

    You somehow got a mic and camera in my head, I wanna know how you did that.

    OH YES and all of the above and then I GO AND ADD CAFFEINE TO THE MIX.

    Wonderful to meet a kindred soul.


  17. :) haha this is so funny. I used to work at Starbucks but still don’t understand all of the orders (or the bananas!).

    Thanks for visiting Raising Humans yesterday!

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    • Julie, I’ve considered agoraphobia, but I can’t stand to be in my particularly dirty house all the time. If I could be an agoraphobic at a nice hotel, I’d never leave. Ahhhhh, no social anxiety. Can you imagine?

  19. Omg! I laughed so hard at this!
    Mostly because I do the same things! Starbucks is too upscale for me and my anxiety goes the roof! I have also been sighed at by the person behind me.

  20. I’m laughing because this was me before I perfected my regular Starbucks order of Grande Chai Latter Non-Fat No Water Extra Hot Five Pumps. Yes, one I’m one of THOSE people now – a Starbucks drone. But God does it taste good. Nobody makes a chai quite like Starbucks – I swear they put liquid crack in it.

    This is definitely in the running for one of my Yeah Write votes. I may have piddled a little while reading it – part of my mild laughing-related urinary incontinence issues.

  21. Phagh! Starbucks. I order a large coffee and they look at me like I have three heads.

    One. Large. Coffee.

    That’s what I want. Give it to me. No fancy crap. Just coffee, a bit of sugar and a bit of half and half.

    Why does it have to be so complicated?

  22. I always feel like an idiot at Starbucks–grande, non fat, what? Even if I get it right, I still feel stupid saying it.

    Not stupid enough to not go there, though. Never that stupid.

    Great post!

  23. My husband thanks you for this post! He HATES ordering at Starbucks. If we go through the drive-thru and he’s driving, I have to lean over and yell my order. One time, he went through the drive-thru the WRONG WAY so that I would have to give my order to the barista at the window myself. We bypassed that whole silly speaker thing. We got reprimanded and got to hand over $9.00 for coffee.

  24. I LOVED THIS!!!! You did such a great job of expressing your experience in words. I really understood how you felt, laughed a ton and more importantly I related. There were soooo many times in this post that I thought “I’m happy I’m not the only that thinks that!” I really enjoyed this post! I have not quite had that experience but I’ve been there. I totally say my order to myself so I do not forget. I am curious… you don’t REALLY carry a brown paper bag with you??? -LV

  25. I still cannot stop laughing – I can SO relate to every part of this post; the panic, the worry ‘do I look weird today?’, repeating my order over and over in my head and then barely stuttering it out! I refuse to even get my husbands coffee anymore because it’s too complicated. Thank you for sharing this awesome and funny story. I thought I was alone but now think there may be an army of us now :)

  26. This is so funny! It reminded me of a tweet I saw the other day… “It is impossible to order anything at Starbucks without sounding like a douche”. I think it was a guy’s tweet, but I think we all get the gist :) Hope that three pump vanilla grande was worth the stress!

  27. Giggle! I am so glad to know that I am not the only completely overwhelmed by internal monologue at all times.
    And the bananas? Those are for those unfortunate times you bring your toddler so that they can start screaming “nana nana nana” at the top of their lungs!

  28. Perfect. It is my own totally useless rebellious gesture that I order “medium coffee.” Period. I know. The world has crashed in its orbit because of my epic resistance. “Do you mean venti,” the nice barista asks and I say “yep, medium.” Me and James Dean. Rebels Without Causes.

  29. Love it. I drive through every day, order the same thing and still mess it up EVERY TIME. A little part of me is happy to see the handsome chap, the big part of me needs to start carrying a brown bag. You are hilarious.

    • Hi NWMommy, Thank you for reading! Maybe they give us the good looking baristas in the NW so we don’t throw ourselves out the window when we are experiencing seasonal depression? I do appreciate that aspect of the experience, I must admit. If you are going to humiliate yourself, why not do it in the presence of beauty? ;-)

    • I think it would be kind of them if they provided little write on wipe off boards so you can just check off what you want and not suffer the humiliation of messing up your order :)

  30. GOSH I love this! I don’t even GO to Starbucks. It’s a foreign language to me. Why can’t I order coffee with cream and sweet and low? Thank goodness I live in New Orleans. I can go to Cafe du Monde and order Cafe au Lait and put my OWN damn Sweet and Low!

  31. Hysterical!!! OMG you described the scene in my town’s Starbucks to a T…just add all those women who don’t work and sit around there in groups in their workout clothes all morning long…do they ever even go work out? or do they sit there until it’s time to pick up their children from school…I’m never quite sure about that because these “workout” outfits are WAY too nice to actually work out in!

    • Jen, Those workout outfits are really dressed up pajamas, right? Let’s not kid ourselves. If you are drinking a Trenti with your girlfriends it’ll take a week to work that sucker off, so I suspect they don’t work out much :)

  32. I’m not a coffee drinker, but on the rare occasions when I meet someone at a Starbucks or Coffee Bean, I always get very stressed out figuring what to order from the non-coffee menu. With the line behind me get more antsy and me triple checking that the Vanilla Blended doesn’t have coffee, it’s an exhausting experience that would require some caffeine. If I drank it. Great post.

    • Jay, The fact that you don’t drink coffee makes it that much more complicated! Poor you! The line of caffeine deprived people makes me super nervous, too. They should hand out Zanax at the register :)

      • For full disclosure, I do drink plenty of caffeinated tea and a plethora of Mountain Dew, so I don’t go completely unjuiced. I’ve just never been a coffee fan. That smell that people rave about, makes me feel a little ill.

        Great post and great meeting you, indirectly, through Hilary.

        • Ha, Jay! I was wondering how you were getting by with no caffeine. Thanks for the disclosure. I actually can’t stand the smell of plain coffee, and I sure as heck can’t drink it black. But I do so love it when it’s creamy and sugary. :) You’re better off with tea. Much more healthful overall. Thanks for popping back by!

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    • Kerry Ann, Way to go! I’m so impressed that you’ve never stepped inside one! It is complete lunacy to pay $3.50 for a coffee drink, I agree. I had successfully weaned myself of going in there for almost a year, but now my little one is in preschool right by a Starbucks & I write there…must. stop! Thanks so much for reading!

  34. So hilarious! Starbucks gives me major anxiety. I usually just order a regular coffee, but always forget to tell them to leave me room at the top to add insane amounts of cream and sugar. I remove the top and glance nervously over my shoulder hoping nobody notices the weird girl dumping steaming hot coffee in the trashcan.

    • KAW, That’s exactly why I don’t just order regular old coffee at Starbucks. I kept having to dump coffee into the trashcan (and frequently burned myself in the process)! Thanks for understanding the anxiety! I thought I was alone, really. :)

  35. If you’d like to add stress and more incontinence, I highly recommend having to order all this in French at 7am when you are not fluently bilingual. I have, on mornings where my brain freezes, taken to pointing randomly to another customer’s cup and hoping for the best.

  36. I always keep it simple, mainly because listening to those ridiculously picky coffee orders drives me insane. My neighbor drinks 3 ventis a day (and has for over 12 years). Her “requirements” are so long & complicated, our neighborhood Starbucks just calls it “The Cheryl”. Seriously, I could just walk up & order a Cheryl. I’d have no freakin’ idea what I’d be drinking, but by God that cup would be covered in so many markings, rookie coffee drinkers would cower in a corner and cry when they saw it. My drink – grande vanilla latte. That’s it. Three little words. My favorite I’ve heard lately – “I’ll have a tall extra-foam latte.” Seriously? You’re going to pay $4 a cup for FOAM? Tell you what, lady. You give me THREE dollars, and I’ll give you an empty cup. Deal?

  37. Just had to come back and say it really sucks when the barista doesn’t speak Starbucks and/or is not listening. There should be a Starbucks Rosetta Stone and it should be a mandatory part of barista boot camp.

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  39. This is too funny. My sister got me hooked on soy lattes at Starbucks – before that I always had such a problem ordering and figuring out how to say what I wanted. And even after I figured out that my heart belongs to the soy, I would still order a “tall, 2% soy latte” and the barista would look at me all funny until I realized that soy milk does need a fat percentage distinction. Oops. The first time I tried to order one iced? Forget about it!

    • Leslie, How is the soy latte? Can you taste the difference? It’d be great not to have to tell the barista what percentage of fat I want my milk to have! (And I love that you say 2% soy!)

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  41. Late to the party too, came via Ms. Iris Beard. I thought I peed myself enough over the Gap jeans post. This was hilarious and so true. I actually took some time to RESEARCH online how to properly order a Starbucks drink (by the looks on some of the baristas’ faces, I’m not convinced I got it right). Then I was smug as a bug that I knew how to order my “Iced Grande black tea, no water extra ice 6 pumps of chai breve” drink. When my husband makes the Starbucks run, he makes me text it to him and then he just hands the barista his phone with the text up, saying “this is what my wife wants”. LOL.

  42. I honestly cannot go INTO a Starbucks. I would rather file my teeth than have to order inside. I go thru the drive up, act like I’ve never been there before (thinking they will help me out) and say I want a medium non fat something sweet :-) I never know what I’m going to get!!

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  45. Every time I scrolled down towards one of the pictures and saw the break in text I thought “oh no – it’s about to end. So soon…?” but then I was pleased it didn’t, and that it was actually a picture of biology or something. Unfortunately it did eventually end. Really enjoyed it, which I hope is quite clear.

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