The other day my wife and I stopped at a Panera’s for a quick bowl of soup. “Do you want an apple with that or an apple?” the cashier said.
I was confused, but the cashier explained that they were out of rolls, and that little joke seemed to amuse the customers. I was not amused. You can’t dunk an apple in your last drop of creamy tomato soup. I wanted a hunk of sourdough bread. Minutes later, a manager came over and said they just found a piece. I should have asked exactly where they found it. I’m not into gluten-free, but I’m a big fan of germ-free.
Once, many years ago at a Starbucks, I walked in and asked for a cup of coffee. The clerk looked a little sheepish and said, “I’m sorry for the inconvenience, but we are presently out of coffee.”
There was a glimmer of hope in the word “presently,” suggesting that this was not a permanent state of affairs. I’m no Wharton School MBA, but being out of java could impact profits.
He stared at me for about six seconds, which in the world of high-octane caffeine is a creepy amount of time to have eye contact. He explained that they needed to make a fresh pot, which would have been a totally acceptable justification if I had stopped at June Cleaver’s unexpectedly before the Beave got home from school.
The grumpy old man in me started to percolate.
At the time, nothing like this had ever happened before. Never had the clerk at Staples said, “Sorry, but we’re out of, um, staples.” Never had the woman at Barnes & Noble ever said, “I’m sorry, sir, we have no books today, but we are printing up some fresh ones even as we speak.” And a Panera’s would never run out of bread. Or so I thought.
“Do you only make one pot at a time?” I asked the Starbucks barista.
“Yes, that’s our new approach to delicious coffee. We brew it fresh when we need it. And because of you, we need it.”
“OK, I don’t have a brain like Einstein’s (although they ran out of coffee, once, too), but it seems to me if the one pot is getting low, you could start another pot so when people like me come in and desperately need an over-priced libation, it’s ready to go.”
“Not a bad idea, sir. Let me check our new employee manual about that. In the meantime, would you like a scone?”
“Were they baked today?”
“Oh, I’m not sure, but the good news is that they can’t get any harder than when they are fresh.”
Well, that’s it for this week. I’m a writer, and guess what? I am out of words.