Saturday, December 4, 2010

Grande coffee, with a shot of chipperness

Anyone who I have ever lived with, be it my family or roommates, can tell you that I am not a morning person. If you can get a softspoken "good morning" out of me as I stumble to get some cereal out of the cupboard, we're doing great. It just takes me a while to wake up. Greet me again at noon and I will likely have a much more enthusiastic "hello" and even a smile.

One thing that I have learned very quickly in Nashville is that a barista encounter in Nashville is 360 degrees different than a barista encounter in Washington D.C. In Washington D.C., everyone in the coffee line was on a mission to get somewhere, with the "importance" of their clicking heels and shiny briefcases to excuse for their hurried and mumbled greetings. The baristas, in turn, were just trying to take orders as quickly as they could to get the lines moving. Forget "good morning" and heaven forbid "how are you?"; there was no time for small talk.

Call me antisocial, but I was pretty okay with this type of encounter at 8am. It was 8am, and I was ordering my coffee, not drinking it yet. For goodness sake, one time I ordered an "Iced soy latte, extra hot please." This goes to show you my capabilities of conversation that early.

Here is Nashville, the Starbucks experience couldn't be more different. The stereotypes about people moving slower in the South are on a whole, absolutely true. And the rumors that they are kind, hospitable, and friendly is absolutely true too. For this I am so grateful. The friendliness of Nashvillians have brought me so much joy, encouragement, and support over the past few weeks.

Except in the mornings when I am getting my coffee. The people ordering in front of me are having long chatty conversations with the cashier that last about 5 minutes. Apparently one must account for this sort of thing when getting coffee before work, because unlike in DC, you can't just pop in and grab a coffee quickly.

Then when you reach the register, the cashier is incredibly chipper as she/he takes your order. When you are waiting for your drink to be made, as you are yawning and waiting for the caffeine you need to help you wake up, the barista decides that this is a good time to start making small talk. "So how are you today?" They ask as they make your drink. "Um, good." You say, grumbling in your head "would be better if you would just leave me in peace. humph." And then with their cheerful, peppy voice they respond "Oh, that's good." Then you guiltily feel like you should make conversation back, but just in time they call your name, "Maria, Soy Latte!"

Relief. You manage a smile, and a courteous thank you. Then rush out the door to sip your coffee in solitude.

At least that's what I thought this week during my trips to Starbucks. The Nashville customer service ethic is so much more gracious than the customer service I have received in many other places. For this, I am very grateful. I guess that mustering up enough early morning chipperness to respond to their heartfelt greetings is just one more way that I am being stretched here.

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