Sunday, September 2, 2012

Coffee culture shock

“I’m sorry, sir, I just really don’t understand what you want.”

By this time, both the Starbucks barista and I were talking to each other like we were five-year-olds.

“I want a LARGE. Coffee. With double. C-R-E-A-M… TWO cream.”

Long pause, then the drive-thru squawk box came to life. “So… just lots and lots of cream?”

This wasn’t the worst California coffee culture shock I’ve experienced. That occurred one mid afternoon when I pulled up to the Human Bean coffee shop in Redding and asked for a black coffee. The person seemed flummoxed and explained that she had brewed her last pot much earlier in the day and wasn’t about to make a cup of coffee just for me.

“So… why are you open?”

Long pause. “Well, I can make you an iced coffee.”

I told the Starbucks gal about double-doubles (two cream, two sugar). She filled me in on “free pouring” cream.  I explained to the Human Bean woman that “brewed” coffee was surely just as good at 1 in the afternoon as 7 in the morning. She tempted me with cold coffee – to no avail, I might add.

There have been other moments of culture shock. Take water use. As good Canadian eco-friendly granola eaters, we let our lawn back in Guelph die in the hot summer sun. But here in the quasi-desert, every single lawn in town gets a daily soaking from automatic sprinklers. Our local nature preserve is yellow and dead. The lawn in front of our new rental home a block away is lush and green.

Then, sitting on the grass in front of a trendy coffee shop serving fresh organic salads, I was asked to move so the landscaper could apply an insecticide. And our car was rigorously smog checked before we could obtain our California plates, presumably so I could join everyone else endlessly idling their cars in front of schools and shops.

But this is beginning to feel like home. I have come to fully expect long, lovely conversations with the Walmart cashier. I’m getting used to seeing the mountains every morning. I’m completely sold on the hot, dry weather. I’ll never get tired of seeing the real California Highway Patrol, imagining Eric Estrada of the 80s TV show “CHIPs” radioing me to help in a high-speed chase.

This is a cool place. I’m glad I’m here.

Tomorrow’s blog entry? I try to order poutine at In-N-Out Burger.

         -- Andrew

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