What we got here…is a failure to communicate.
Captain, Road Prison 36 in Cool Hand Luke
Another in a set of reflections on our recent trip to New Zealand and Australia.
We have lots of kinds of coffee.
He shouldn’t sound impatient, but he does, just a little. The ordering sequence has, evidently, not gone entirely to his expectation. Or to his liking, for that matter. I go back over it in my mind, to see where things went off the rails.
I’ll have a coffee. That’s the Big Guy. Me, I have sensibly ordered tea.
What kind of coffee? That’s the trainee, fingers hovering over his cash register’s keys, poised to make the selection.
Just a regular coffee. The Big Guy again, a little at a loss as to how to specify what he wants.
We have lots of kinds of coffee. The trainee doesn’t say it, but it’s clear that ‘regular’ is not one of those kinds.
Oh dear. Here we are, on only our second day in this not very foreign country, already annoying the locals by stumbling over the basics. I mean, we thought we spoke their language.
We’re getting breakfast at a fast-food franchise we recognize from home, trying to save time and money. Yesterday we did the ‘full breakfast in a tapas bar located upstairs off a quaint alley’ thing, with a $15-plate of streaky bacon, scrambled eggs, and home-made toast with marmalade so bitter it tests my self-image as a marmalade user. This morning, as we head out for a full day of freelance sightseeing before our organized tour starts on the morrow, we figured we’d go simpler. So far, not so much.
A supervisor comes to the rescue, perhaps more familiar with hapless North American turistas than her wanna-be barista.
Do you want espresso? Do you want milk?
Two negative responses later, she turns to the trainee and puts it in terms he and his cash register will understand: Long black.
Chastened, we take our food-like substances, our beverages, and our new learning to our table. But this is the breakfast that keeps on giving: my learning is not done yet. I open my cup to dunk the teabag, only to find an unappetizing milky-white fluid. Huh?
Ah. Now I remember the trainee muttering something about ‘white tea.’ Not understanding the term, I had let it go. I sigh, and head back to the counter.
I know it’s true what they say about travel – that if I’d wanted things to be the same here as at home, I should have stayed at home. But with a lactose intolerance, going along with this particular kind of different is not an option.
Oh well. The morrow may not find us any cuter, but it will definitely find us smarter. Or at least smart enough to order our breakfast beverages.
Long black coffee and black tea.
Say it loud, say it proud.