There is a man that goes to my neighborhood coffee shop. He is quite elderly. He is either bilingual or has a difficult time speaking. I think it might be both–a mix of a stroke and stilted English. He is there nearly every weekday morning that I am. Lately, he has been at the counter at about the same time. The manager, who is often working at that time, knows him by name (as she does many of us), and knows what he orders. He still orders it though. And then shoves his money at her.
He shoves it because she won’t take it. He waves it at her. He yells something that sounds like he wants her to take it. Today he said what pretty clearly sounded like “you come here right now.” And she said “nope.” I think he stomped his feet after that. From what I can understand by this daily ritual/argument is that this gentleman has been buying his latte and breakfast pastry every morning for so long that he has racked up a truck-load of buy-10-get-one-free coffees. I think I heard her say 200 at last count. No joke. She told someone that he refuses to take the free ones.
As I drove away today I was wondering if he really-truly wants to pay, or if it is the interaction he wants. The manager is good with people. She is great at her job. She seems to know what he needs. I was just wondering if paying for his coffee is something he needs to do. Either from a sense of ritual, or from a sense of responsibility, or maybe he likes to help the small business out. Or maybe he likes the game. Sometimes he tricks her into taking it. Sometimes he gets another employee to take it. I wonder if he has ever put it in the tip jar or just left it on the counter.
I noticed today that it was only $2 he was waving around. That’s probably less than half the cost of what he ordered. This could mean a few things. Maybe he is broke and only has $2 and that’s why the manager refuses him? Maybe he realizes he’s racked up a treasure trove of free coffees and was only paying for his pastry? Maybe he doesn’t realize it costs more these days?
Either way, I thought about it all the way to work today.