Keyboards and Coffee Shops; A Love Letter To Absurdity and Lattes (TheByteWeek Issue 8 )

There are certain aspects of human existence that are universal; love, hate, war, peace, tragedy, and comedy are all topics we can relate to in some way, shape or form. The beauty of sentience has made it possible for human beings to experience seemingly different events and categorize them within an almost universal internal database available for anyone else to understand. Be that as it may, there’s a single aspect that I adore more than any other because of it’s ability to truly and genuinely appear in every single event that occurs in this universe. In short, absurdity is the tiny nugget of data that always manages to make itself present, no matter what the situation may be. That being said, yesterday, I managed to secure myself a new keyboard and I’m glad to say that I can finally type without being inhibited by the lack of a working space bar.

Now, it wouldn’t be fair of me to say that my old keyboard didn’t work, because it’s been doing an absolutely fantastic job, it’s just that two or so weeks ago my most important piece of technology decided to conk out and since then, it’s refused to provide me with an easy way to type. In essence, for the past two weeks I’ve been treating my space bar like a bad tennis player treats a tennis ball – with fury and power that only the Hammer of Thor can withstand. No, seriously, while typing, I’ll often find myself quoting a line from Up in the Air “Has your keyboard done anything to hurt you?” and to be fair, it has done something to hurt me. It’s decided to stop working properly, forcing me to engage it in a duel of both wits and physical fortitude everytime I want to accomplish any task that requires a great deal of writing (considering my self designated title, one can only imagine how deep this problem has run).

As interesting as my old keyboard might have been (none at all, for anyone interested), the truth of the matter is that my new one is far more sensitive, and now I find myself having to cradle each key as I would a lost puppy or kitten – with love and respect (in addition to an annoying amount of discipline). I’m not kidding when I say that any given keystroke makes me cringe, especially considering that it was my own callous and inattentive hands that managed to ruin my old QWERTY compatriot. Quite frankly, I refuse to let history’s cold and meticulous hands exact it’s comeuppance. Quite frankly, my keyboard dilemma (though incredibly thought provoking and hilarious) is absurd as any situation can get. Interestingly enough, however, as absurd as the keyboard dilemma may have been, this week played host to an even more difficult duel; one of sharper wits, wilier tongue and more decisive action. This week, unlike any other week, I went to Starbucks and ordered a latte (a Caramel Brulle Latte with whipped cream, to be precise).

Under any given circumstance (please note the segue) accomplishing such a task would not have been beyond the realm of the norm (nor the possible), except that this was my first time in a Starbucks coffee shop without someone there to help guide my hands to the right choice. With all my courage (and the innate talent) that I had gathered through my years of ordering coffee, I had never been prepared for the absolutely nerve wracking experience that Starbucks managed to put me through.

For a moment, allow me to extrapolate upon a minor detail that I’ve been withholding; I live in Canada, specifically Ontario, where the majority of the coffee market is dominated by Canada’s defining coffee shop: Tim Horton’s. In terms of service and reliability, Tim Horton’s (hereby affectionately referred to as Timmy’s) is absolutely and utterly average. It’s not that they don’t provide decent service, with tasty coffee and various confectioneries to delight the pallet of most consumers, it’s just that they do so in a relatively average way. You order your food or drink, pay, wait for it to be prepared, and you walk out with your purchase.

At no given moment are you expected to parlay with your cashier or negotiate a means in which you can release the food as if it were a hostage being held in a poorly written bank scene from a thoroughly detestable Eddie Murphy movie.

The menus at Timmy’s are comprehensible instead of comprehensive, and their staff smile at you when you’re confused. In comparison, my “Barista” at Starbucks provided neither a friendly attitude, nor any help when it came to deciphering the ancient script that they had laid out near the cash register. I understand that each drink size is named in a logical way, but moving from the “Small, Medium, Large” paradigm to the more confusing “Tall, Grande, Venti” algorithm was akin to asking me to forfeit everything I had ever known to clear my mind for a more important set of instructions. By beginning my journey into the Starbucks, I had effectively forced myself to wipe out everything I knew about ordering coffee. As I continue, though, please note that not all Starbucks employees act in such a rude and aristocratic manner. In fact, I’ve now become familiar with the menu and ordering style, and have met more than several kind and warmhearted employees.

I just had the bad luck of encountering a former member of the British House of Lords on my first trip across the pond, and it was inappropriate of me to treat him in any other way. I was sneered at – genuinely sneered at – for not knowing how to order coffee, though I do digress. Ordering the drink was an almost impossible task unto itself, since my genuine fear of the Barista managed to overpower all of my cognitive functions, and being asked whether I wanted whipped cream with my latte actually sent a surge of paralysis through my mind. I was unable to speak for a few seconds which, evidently, was a few seconds too long for the former British lord. When I finally regained my senses, I noticed, almost immediately, that he had grown even more infuriated with my apparent steadfast determination to ruin his afternoon. I had upset his balance; I had entered his realm without understanding the rules that I had to play by.

Of course, all my fears were assuaged when I actually drank my coffee (I ordered a Grande to stay on the safe side. As it turns out, the Grande’s are relatively grand; it was at that moment that their algorithms made sense to me) and the delicious caramel flavour caressed my taste buds in a tragically romantic way; I knew I was in love with the drink as soon as I had it, but I was terrified of potentially ordering another when I was done, so I did the only logical thing I could think of. After finishing the latte, I threw out my cup and left. In a sense, the absurdity of the situation didn’t really register until after I left the coffee shop; not only had I become terrified of the Barista, but my fears went far enough that I had become scared of the brand itself.

Since the incident, I’ve overcome my fears and I’m proud to say that I love Starbucks. No seriously, I love everything about it, and knowing that the name derives from Herman Melville’s magnum opus only served to accentuate my infatuation. Granted, I still go to Timmy’s, but that doesn’t change the fact that the better coffee (albeit at a higher price) remains at Starbucks. It’s absurd, honestly, to state that I was afraid of the brand, then again, it’s even more absurd to believe that I was scared stiff of an upset Barista, who almost certainly had a superiority complex to rival that of any low ranking Lord from Empirical Britain.

I began this article by stating that I adore absurdity, and despite my experiences at a normal coffee shop, I maintain my stance. Absurdity is the most integral part of human existence and every aspect of our lives is defined by it. The absurdity of paying 5 dollars of coffee, though less substantial, still exists within the same realm of absurdity that protesting for weeks without an articulated creed provides. Yes, it’s absurd to compare being scared of a Starbucks Barista to the Occupy Movement, but the absurd part is the fact that that’s point.

We must embrace the absurdity of our daily lives and (first of all) relish it, then (second of all) learn from it and (finally) adapt to it in whichever way possible. In my example, I went back to the same coffee shop, with the same Barista and proved to him that, despite once being an avid follower of the Timmy’s school of thought, I am more than capable of handling myself in a more “Intellectual” venue. The Occupy protestors have, hopefully, learned how to organize better rallies and, most importantly, my Barista learned a lesson in basic customer service, specifically: don’t treat a customer like he’s am absolute and utter moron when he’s the one who decides whether to stay or leave. Suffice it to say, my new keyboard works like a dream, though the absurdity of complaining about a keyboard when the world I live in is, quite literally, trying to tear itself apart at its seams isn’t lost on me either.

As always, this has been your Admin, the Avid Blogger; comment, subscribe, and criticize, and DO remember! Always look on the BYTE side of life!

-EK

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