Shaming the Barista

I just did the worst thing. 


Starbucks has a new feature on their app called "Order (Beta)" by which one can choose their espresso drink and pay for it almost instantly online and then arriving at the coffee shop, simply pick it up and go about one's business.

I decided to try it out this morning. I ordered a reasonably complex drink and then set off for my neighborhood Starbucks, about 10 minutes by foot. So I got there and the drink was not waiting for me. The barista, a pleasant-looking young black man,  seemed to have no idea what I was talking about. 

"So you're not equipped to handle these online orders?" I asked.

"No, but we didn't get the order. I think you must have made a mistake." 

I made a mistake? He was blaming the victim! I wasn't going to tolerate it. 

I should add here that I am not usually a particularly aggressive person, and I am particularly gentle with people who work in retail and food services because I know their pay is crap and they are often belittled and ignored by their customers, particularly here in Greenwich, CT, home of many hedge fund managers and their wives, who parade around as though they are "Masters of the Universe" in the words of Tom Wolfe. Like any town, there are also a lot of nice people who are not particularly wealthy, and are content to be simply Citizens of the Universe.     

Also, I had had a rotten morning, and I had been struggling not to blow up at my wife. I had already shouted at the dog. 

"I made a mistake?" I asked rhetorically in a deceptively calm voice.  He had implied that I was an incompetent user of my cell phone app, a shaming statement and I was not going to tolerate it. In a fraction of a second I went into what Donald Nathanson calls "Attack Other" mode. I displaced my shame onto him, and effortlessly shifted the blame.

"I think you made a mistake!" I was posing as a Master of the Universe, a group I had often belittled, partly out of envy that they could afford to drive Teslas. 

"Did you order it at the wrong store?" he asked me.

"Putnam Plaza." I waved the cellphone at him.

"Did you complete the sale?"

"Of course I completed the sale!" I examined the interface more closely. I hadn't completed the sale.

"You're right," I said. "I haven't completed the sale. I owe you an apology. I suggested it was your fault but it was mine."

I waited for my, "Hey, that's okay broh," accompanied by a smile and perhaps a slap on the arm. He just stared at me. The apology had felt real--but had it sounded real? Or did he have ambivalent feelings about the Masters of the Universe too? 

I tried again. "I'm sorry if I was snarky." 


I felt awful.

I sighed and went on my way. Perhaps, I thought, if I record it in the shame diaries I'll feel a little better. An online confession.

A little better.