Hello and a happy major holiday week to you! In my house, we are ready to go: presents are wrapped, tree is decorated, and stockings are hanging on the wall since we lack a mantle. It’s a nice time of year even though it looks and feels different from years past.
As promised, I am sharing a third snippet from my NaNoWriMo project. These posts should be read in chronological order to make the most sense. Did you miss the other posts? Perhaps you need a refresher? No worries, friends; I have you covered.
Okay, we’re all back up to speed, yes? Fantastic! Here is the third glimpse into Zora’s day.
“Okay, Zora, first off, how are you doing?” asks my manager, Tyrone. We have finally found a chance to sit and chat in the back now that the pre-work crowd has finally died down. It’s a few minutes after ten, and I am close to starting my “lunch” break. A meal before eleven in the morning has no right to be called a lunch, but “mid-shift meal break” is a mouthful. Tyrone has a small cup of black coffee in his hand that he is sipping, the tendrils of steam making their way upward toward his ebony eyes. I am chugging water to refuel after the hellacious morning I weathered.
“Fuck,” I blurt out, my brain too tired to comprehend that this is my boss sitting in front of me. Tyrone laughs. “Shit. Sorry. Now I’ve done that twice. It’s just been a rough day. We had some real winners early on before the rush and I don’t know, it just wore me down more than usual,” I confess, taking another swig out of my cup. I am sure that the messy bun that held my hair at opening has morphed into a ponytail that is doing everything in its power not to escape from my head, and sweat is beading on my forehead. The adrenaline has awakened me if the caffeine was struggling to produce the same effect. Internally, I feel like I have stepped in front of a moving train.
Fortunately for me, Tyrone knows that I am not one to complain without reason. “You seem to have handled it well. Paolo said something about Melba and a pretty bad customer earlier and how you were able to deescalate, and that’s important. It’s a skill that I’ve been hoping to help you develop, and I’m glad it’s coming along well.” I smiled weakly at this, wanting to show more gratitude but lacking the energy to do so. “I take it you’ll be due for a lunch soon, yeah?”
“That’s correct,”I say.
“Perfect. If you can knock out those dishes, you can go ahead and start lunch afterward,” he replies, standing up from his seat and reaching to put his apron back on. As if compelled by a supernatural force, we were interrupted.
A blur of black hair whooshed into our space, breaths heaving and eyes wide. I was staring my coworker Sam in the face. As one of the few baristas who had been here longer than I had, it took a lot to wear Sam thin. Evidently, a lot had happened.
“What’s up?”I ask him.
“One of you. Tyrone. Zora. I don’t care. Someone please come deal with this woman,” Sam pants. “I am so beyond being able to help her and she wants a manager. Ordered a drink that makes no sense and when I tried to help her figure it out, I thought she was gonna come over the counter at me. Just. Please,” he begs. Tyrone and I share a glance.
“I’ll handle her,” Tyrone volunteers. I thank him, remembering to myself that I have already dealt with crazies this morning. It was normal to have one or two overly upset people in a shift; it was unusual to experience something like today where the tensions were high. Maybe there had been extra bad traffic, or maybe something bad happened in the news or in the stock markets and I was completely oblivious. Whatever. People would be jerks; that was a fact of life. I knew that I could handle some mean ones, but if my team started to bail, it would be bad news for Tyrone and me as we tried to keep it together.
I get to work on dishes: soaking milk-stained pitchers, emptying for-here mugs that have the dregs of morning coffee in their bottoms, and dutifully rinsing out the plastic tea pitchers. Although making drinks on bar is my favorite place to be, I also like the solitude that dish duty offers. Plus, when I finish, I can look at a job well done because the physical evidence is visually available. It’s the little things that get me through my shifts at this job, and I will take what I can get.
As I wash the dishes, I have time to really contemplate my life. Two years here; two whole years. I was still farting around with just a high school diploma and had no degrees to my name, associates or otherwise. Dad was doing a lot better, and I was in a three bedroom apartment with roommates for the first time in my life. My roomies were both students, so I knew that it was possible to do this, but how would it work financially?
After I finish the dishes, I take off my apron and hang it up on the hooks. We have not quite made it to eleven, but that is fine; I need a sanity break. I am not really hungry yet, so I figure I will go for a walk around the shopping center. The store is located in a nondescript suburban strip mall; we have some stores, a few fast food places, a massive grocery store, and a couple of offices. Grabbing my jacket, I put my arms through the sleeves and zip it up, ready to be a person and not a glorified coffee maker for a few minutes.
I am unprepared for what I walk into when I enter the lobby. Tyrone is engaged with a furious matron; he has his eyebrows knitted together as he tries to keep his cool, she is throwing a tantrum of epic proportions. Her shrieks are so loud that I am expecting the front windows to shatter at any moment from the noise. When I enter the conversation, I have apparently stepped into a mess. Her eyes are wide, her voice sharp, her cheeks are darkening to a shade of pink that I would expect to see in someone who has just finished running a 5K.
“YOU,” she screeches at Tyrone. “YOU ARE THE WORST MANAGER I HAVE EVER SEEN IN THIS STORE! IT IS MY GOD-GIVEN RIGHT TO HAVE MY MOCHA WITH NO FOAM AND I WILL NOT STAND HERE AS YOU TREAT ME LIKE A SECOND-CLASS CITIZEN!”
“Ma’am,” Tyrone asserts, his voice even but slowly starting to crack under the pressure of this person’s wrath. “Ma’am, we can make the drink for you, but you have to understand that SOME foam is unavoidable. It is what happens the milk is steamed. We can try to minimize it but cannot completely—”
Evidently, this is the straw that is going to break the raging camel’s back. “I DON’T WANT TO HEAR IT!” she bellows, her gaze fixated completely on my boss. The other patrons in the store have fallen silent. Some are watching with eyes widened, others are trying to hide the fact that they’re eavesdropping, and some have even decided to pack up and leave the cafe altogether. I am torn between running away myself and taking the walk that I want or showing Tyrone that he does not have to slay the dragon alone.
Before I can make a decision, Tyrone takes a stand. “Ma’am, I am going to have to ask you to leave now,” he states, a fire burning in his ebony irises. It is unusual for Tyrone to reach the point where he will kick someone out, and I am dumbstruck. My feet will not move from where I stand.
“EXCUSE ME!?” the banshee howls. “WHY ARE YOU KICKING ME OUT?”
“Because this is a private business and we have the right. Please leave or I will call the police.”
This was a trigger word. “The POLICE? What crime have I committed? I just wanted a cup of coffee!” She starts to wail, her faux blond bob bouncing as she audibly sobs. “I’m just trying to get a mocha and you want to call the police on me?”
“Please leave and I will not call the police,” Tyrone offers, standing his ground. He is one of two people behind the line; the other is Paolo who is working on the mobile orders that are blowing up our sticker printer. Although I can feel Paolo’s desire to egg on this woman, I know he wants to get this over with and avoid more angry customers. So, he is doing his best and supporting the store as our manager tackles an exceptionally rude person. I am uncomfortable with the idea of leaving them alone here when I have witnessed this for myself, so I opt to get in line behind the crazed person and order a drink and snack. In her blind rage, she does not notice me.
I watch her stick her hands into the cooler where we keep prepacked snack boxes, bottled beverages and other goodies that a rushed customer can pick up on their way to the cash register. She pulls out a bag of popcorn and a yogurt parfait. To my horror, I watch as she launches both of them over the counter at Tyrone. The yogurt misses him and lands on the wall behind him. The popcorn bag plinks him in the forehead before flopping pathetically down onto the counter. He recoils instinctively, grimacing and finally deciding he is done with her.
“Okay. That’s it; I’m calling the police now,” Tyrone states, reaching under the counter for the portable phone. I am rooted in place, unsure of what I should do. The woman has a complete meltdown. Her eyes well up with a mixture of rage and self-pity, her face deepens from pink to scarlet, and her fists ball up and come down hard on the counter with a loud THUNK. She is not done with him yet.
“How DARE you!” she screams, tears streaming down her face. At first I am shocked, but then I realize that these are tears of anger and not sorrow, pity or fear. In a split second, she lunges across the counter and grabs him, trying to get her hand around his neck. I hear the breath exit his lungs in a shocked exhale. Personally, I have never seen such a severe reaction in my two years, especially over something simple like a cup of coffee.
Fortunately, Paolo is ready for action. When the woman is trying to throttle Tyrone, Paolo drops the pitcher he is holding and launches his body into Tyrone to separate them. The woman is knocked backward away from the counter and Tyrone falls behind the pastry case, taking Paolo to the floor with him. I decide to pull my cell phone out of my own pocket and dial 911 since I have no way of knowing if Tyrone’s call went through.
“911, what’s your emergency?” the operator states. I back away from the antagonizer and try to speak as quietly as I can to avoid becoming her newest victim.
“Hi, there’s a fight at Starbucks,” I hiss. “A woman just attacked our manager. We need police.” As soon as I finish my sentence, the woman starts screaming at both of my coworkers. I hope that she is loud enough to be heard on the other end of the phone.
“Okay, what is your location?” the operator asks. I give her our store’s address. “How many people?”
“Three, I guess,” I say. “There’s a woman attacking our manager and my coworker.”
“And any weapons?”
“No, I don’t see any,” I report. As I say this, the woman picks up more parfaits and bottled beverages and starts throwing them to the floor. “She is destroying our merchandise by throwing it on the ground and at people.”
“Thank you for that. We will be sending law enforcement as soon as possible. Can I get your name and telephone number, please?”
“Yes,” I say, walking backward in the hopes of staying discreet. “My name is Zora Weber.” She asks for the spelling which I provide along with my phone number and we disconnect. I wait and hope that the police will be here soon before Paolo or Tyrone gets hurt, my heart racing. This was not at all how I expected my day to go.
As always, feedback is both welcome and appreciated. I hope you are enjoying my work; a little encouragement goes a long way.
I will be back next week with new content. If you celebrate, have a wonderful holiday, stay safe, and be merry!