The Logical Philosopher

Sunday, October 21, 2007

50 cups of coffee

“I need 3 large totes of your of coffee. To go.”

A look of panic crossed the barista’s face. She turned to her coworker and said “Start making coffee. Now.”

“Well sir, it will take ½ hour to brew that. We can’t use up all the store’s coffee in case people that come in want something as well.”

I looked down at my watch, mentally working out the commute time as compared to my meeting time. “Hmm. What can you do in 20 minutes?” I countered, seeing how far the Starbucks-Say-Yes policy would take me.

“We can do 2 totes for sure. I can do 3 but it will take another 10." I looked at my watch again, balancing off the need for being on time for my meeting, or being late but bringing coffee for everyone.

“Hmmm. Do two. It may be enough.” I added an extra bottle of San Pellegrino to my tab and sat down at the nearest table, settling in for my wait. With no laptop or work with me, I was forced to relax, just like the old days of 2005.

“Hey Coffee Guy!” one barista yelled over the counter at me. “How many people are there? I will have cups and lids ready to go for you as well.”

“50” I called back, realizing I was probably going to screw most of the people at the end of the line out of their drink, or at least make them wait longer. I felt like that big fat guy at the front of the buffet line that takes all the shrimp and doesn’t leave enough for the rest of the line. There were pangs of guilt, but they passed quickly. Very quickly.

She stopped and came around the counter waving her hands. “You can’t serve 50 people with two totes! You need four!”

I looked at her and shrugged my shoulders. Lack of planning on my part was not going to make it an emergency on my part because it was, after all, just coffee. Besides, she seemed to be taking care of being wound up for me. I sat there looking at her, wondering if when I came in and placed my order they all freaked out and had a shot of espresso before tackling the job.

22 minutes later the head barista came up to me. “Ok, here’s the scoop. It’s your lucky day as we’ve brewed a lot of extra coffee and everyone in the past 20 minutes only ordered bar drinks. So I have enough coffee for the four totes. That’s 50 people, easy. And do you need milk, cream, soy or ½ and ½? I can also give you decaf, dark roast or our light roast blend to choose from.”

“Well, I’ll take the three. I think that should be enough. And I’m not sure about the milk thing. Just give me what you think we need. For the coffee type, just surprise me.”

“Are you sure? Don’t you know what people want in their drinks, let alone what type of coffee they want?” Her voice was somewhat accusatory towards me, like somehow she was going to be blamed for me bringing coffee without the right mixes to make it like people want.

I decided at that point I should make my confession. “Look, here’s the deal. I don’t drink coffee. I have no idea how long it takes to brew coffee, or how many cups people drink in a morning. Nor do I know how much milk people need, or if they prefer cream. I just happened to be the guy from the team that was driving by Starbucks on his way to work and was asked to ‘pickup coffee for everyone’. I just made the assumption that when I needed coffee for 50 people, I could stop at a coffee shop and order some, and be on my way, even if I had to wait. And really, I don’t mind the wait and will just grab what I can before having to head out.” As her eyebrows rose at me I could almost hear her thinking How can you not drink coffee? I continued on “In fact, the only think I do know is that when I make coffee ice-cream for my wife at home, I need a free cup of coffee from Starbucks, and a cup is 12 ounces.”

A few minutes later she came out with my 3 full totes of coffee, and 4 venti cups full of cream, milk, ½ and ½ and soy. “I just gave you lots of everything. And just so you know, next time you can call ahead and we can have it ready.” With that I loaded up the car and headed making meeting on time with 2 minutes to spare.

Moral of the story: don’t send the non-coffee guy to pickup coffee for everyone. He may be late, will probably get the wrong type of coffee, and not bring the right mixers. The only reason I was saved was because of the barista, who must have felt the pain of my coworkers and ensured I had enough of everything.

Epilogue: I get to my meeting and put the coffee out for everyone. At the end of our presentation, everyone filed out of the room, having only drank the equivalent of one tote of coffee. That left two full ones there, standing beside 4 full venti cups of milk mixers. So now I know, people at my office drink it black, if they opt to drink at all. Lesson learned.