“The usual”

“The usual,” the customer said.

“Ok, Sir,” replied the cashier and she punched in the order.

The customer then fingered out some old bills from his wallet and handed them to the cashier. He moved to the side of the store and had a chat with his companions while waiting for his usual drink.

***

I can’t remember the first time I heard “the usual” as an order at Starbucks. Although I would bet my money that it was in a movie. Maybe it was You’ve Got Mail or When Harry Met Sally I can’t remember but all I know is that those were movies in cafés. Back then I had the impression that it must have been quite cool to dispense with the usual formalities of specifying an order. Instead of giving out an order like the others, “the usual” seemed to say, “Hey I’m a regular here, you know me and what I want, so on you go.” It sets one apart, no doubt, from the people who come and go to coffee shops. It gives the impression that there’s a secret club lurking in the coffee shop and oh do we love secret clubs. Perhaps the effect is doubled when it’s done at Starbucks where a cup of coffee costs more than some full meals.

Starbucks will always be more of a status symbol than a coffee shop to me. I’ll never understand why coffee would be served in sizes so large. A grande or venti cup of brewed coffee could fill three to four cups. Even with generous sips, the coffee would probably be tepid by the time you get to the bottom half. For a latté, it’s almost like drinking a glass of milk given the sheer size of it. And to top it all off, it’s all served in paper cups by default. Sure you can have it mugs, but only if you ask. One would be better off going to the new third-wave coffee shops sprouting up these days. Same prices for excellent coffee.

***

“The usual, Sir,” the server said as he handed the cup of coffee with a napkin prostrated on the top.

The customer took it and then smiled. He walked away along with his colleagues, all of whom holding their little cups and napkins in their hands.

***

Probably the only drink I’d been willing to buy at Starbucks is a tall brewed coffee. Black. I’d buy it mainly because of the strange coffee grounds they use (some exotic African bean sourced from local farmers from God knows where). It costs P100 and to stop me from getting a monetary stroke, I just apply some good ol’ accounting tricks. In my personal books then, I record the P100 as P50 rental expense for the space of Starbucks for x hours and P50 for the coffee. Not a bad deal, I suppose, considering that a Family Mart 8 oz. Americano is P55 and I usually take out. See? Accounting’s good not only for the wallets. So the moral lesson of the story is: never take-out in Starbucks.

***

“I’ll buy you coffee,” she said.

“No, you don’t have to. You really don’t,” I replied.

“I’ll buy you coffee.”

“Tall, brewed coffee. Black,” I cried in surrender. She took no quarter it seemed.

She stood up and walked to the counter and soon came back with a tall cup wearing a neat napkin on top. I thanked her for the cup. And that’s how I ended up with a cup of Starbucks coffee from my girlfriend.

As planned: we didn’t take out.

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