There’s an extensive list of nonsensical experiences in my life which have led to absurd rituals associated with every city I’ve travelled to. So let me share a little secret here, although I am not so enamoured of beverages, my mornings (whenever I am here) at Pune city are incomplete without a cup of coffee at Starbucks.
I remember the first time when I came to this city five years ago. The late-night flight unexpectedly turned out to be an early morning one as there was a delay of more than 4 hours due to bad weather conditions. The plane touched down at about 05:15 am, and I had a meeting scheduled at 8:30 the same morning. Cutting out the total travelling time (including the traffic delays) from the airport to my hotel and from the hotel to the meeting venue, I just had 45 minutes on my hands. So I checked in, had a quick shower, put on my glad rags and called the reception to inquire about the breakfast timing. To my utter disappointment, it was not going to open for the next 30 minutes. I could not afford to wait that long, but after a sleepless journey of more than 16 hours, I desperately needed a cup of coffee.
So I teetered, all draped in 6 yards of elegance and wearing 4-inch heels, towards the nearest coffee house and let myself into Starbucks. ”Regular Frappe,” I murmured sotto voce.
The guy in the green apron on the other side of the counter didn’t react. It didn’t take me long to realise I had entered the wrong combination. ”Regular Frappe” was so not a Starbucks thing. That was a typical CCD vocabulary. I stammered, my pre-coffee brain quickly glanced through the menu board, ”I mean- A- A Frappuccino Coffee.”
There. I had managed it.
”What size?”-the guy asked, without missing a beat.
I pointed at a stack of paper cups, unable to articulate another human sentence. The guy picked up a giant cup, ”No-small!” I said in agitation.
”Tall”, he corrected me patiently while picking up the smallest cup of the three available sizes.
"Tall?!" In my head, I was like- ”Are you kidding me? Why can’t you call it short? Is it politically correct to spare the feelings of the midget coffee cup? And then what’s with this combination of English and Italian. Tall. Grande. Venti. Translation- Tall, Large, Twenty. Twenty what?! Twenty centimetres of cup or coffee or what?”
”Your name, please?” he asked, demanding my attention.
He then scribbled my name and some other abstruse symbols with a black marker on the side of the cup and passed it down the assembly line, shouting, ”Tall Frappuccino Coffee!”
That was it. Tall Frappuccino Coffee. The access code for small milk and coffee blended with ice.
I heard another customer ordering a ”Dry Latte” while I was waiting for my cup of coffee. In my vivid imagination, I had already pictured him walking away with a sachet of ready-to-make beverage in powder form.
A lady shouted my name from the other side of the counter. I made my way to her, and she gently handed me my cup of coffee. I grabbed it and walked post-haste to the exit as my cab was waiting outside. I pushed the door open without realising that the lid of the cup wasn’t completely intact. And as the door opened, the coffee cup tumbled and rolled over the staircase. All I could see was my 20 precious minutes (in the form of coffee) spilt on the floor. It was unexpected and embarrassing as all the eyes were drawn to me. And since I had no more time to spare for another cup of coffee, I walk past, got into my cab and left.
Today, as I sit here reminiscing that clumsy incident, I honestly can’t think of what exactly made me come up with this ritual of having my morning coffees here- the exclusivity of the menu, making an active choice among Tall-Grande-Venti, the cute gesture of scribbling customer’s name on the cup, or an effort to right the past’s wrongs. But you know what- it’s no big deal. It can happen to anyone, anywhere, anytime.
Is there any absurd ritual that you follow? Let me know in the comments section below.