I pulled up to a shed that had been painted baby blue and renovated into a drive up coffee hut. A rubber hose that stretched out across the asphalt rang like a service station bell to alert the proprietor to my presence, when I drove over it. I looked at the brief and simple menu and then at the window.
A man of at least 150 years in age leaned his old weathered face out the window.
"YOU WANT SOME COFFEE?" he yelled across the two foot distance to me.
"Yes, please, Sir!" I offered up to him as his window towered over my drivers side door. Examining the menu, I thought I'd reserve my usual barista lingo coffee request and keep it simple for this elderly gentleman of the small country town persuasion. I was surprised to find a coffee shed there at all, let alone one which sold several beverage options in Italian (espresso, cappuccino...); it was encouraging, but I thought simple would be best.
"Could I please get a mochaccino, decaf?" I asked.
"A WHAT?!?!" he yelled at me, the deep lines on his old face transforming into bewilderment.
I realized, too late, that I had overestimated the culture curve bridging the short distance between us. I could simplify this again and put it into steps for him, in an effort to be helpful.
"Could you please make a cappuccino?"
"Do you have some sort of chocolate syrup that you could put into it, please?" ...voila, mochaccino.
"OH... YOU DON'T WANT A CAPPUCCINO. THERE'S NOTHING IN IT!" he hollered at me.
I was at a complete loss.
"YOU OUGHTTA GET A LATTE. DON'T YOU KNOW THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A CAPPUCCINO AND A LATTE?"
I was dumbstruck. I was trying my very best to fathom how this elderly gentleman could possibly be serious. I smiled in confusion and politeness and he took no notice; he just plowed right on.
"A CAPPUCCINO IS ALL FOAM. YOU DON'T WANT THAT. THERE'S ONLY HALF A CUP OF COFFEE. GET A LATTE, THEN YOU HAVE A WHOLE CUP OF COFFEE."
I stared at him incredulously. My two friends who were sitting in the car with me were in hysterics laughing at the situation. I could only think that I didn't want to confound the old man any further, for that would invariably lead to more amazement on my part, and I'd had enough by this point.
"That's fine, Sir, please use decaf and please put some chocolate in it."
He left to start the coffee and I turned and stared at my friends who were still in fits of laughter.
"HEY!" He yelled to me and I turned and looked up at him leaning out to me again.
"I DIDN'T MEAN TO BE A SMART ASS, I JUST WANTED TO MAKE SURE YOU KNEW THE DIFFERENCE!" he yelled. He handed me a large cup, I paid him and we drove off.
I tasted it; it was the worst cup of joe I have ever had the misfortune to lift to my lips. I looked at my friends and said, "I'm so sorry that I didn't go to Starbucks." They continued to laugh at the whole debacle.
Since this encounter, I have made a new cardinal rule in the Holy Book of Scarlett's Cardinal Rules... 'If they don't know what it is, don't ask them to make it, and never buy coffee from an old man in a coffee shed in a small town. Ever.'