Hump Day: Coffee culture etiquette: a matter of steely eyed negotiation

Hump DayHump Day
By Brian Cormier
Wednesday, Aug. 20, 2014
Moncton Times & Transcript
Editorial section

If you’re in the customer service industry or a trade where you visit the homes of your clients, I would appreciate it if you’d read this column as a bit of a wakeup call for etiquette when in the homes or on the properties of others.

Before I go further, I certainly don’t want to imply that the quality of the work done was poor. It wasn’t. It’s just that I winced when I saw them get out of their vehicles or come in the house. Why? Well, read on.

If you’re going to someone’s house to do work, put your cigarette out in your vehicle. Even better, put it out before you enter my driveway. Most people don’t smoke nowadays – so treat their property as you would their home. Don’t smoke – even outside. One guy got out of his truck with a cigarette with about two inches of ash at the end of it, removed the cigarette from his mouth and then threw the entire thing on my lawn.

Excuse me, sir? Where do you get off throwing your cigarette on my lawn? Doesn’t your vehicle have an ashtray? I didn’t say anything. Maybe I should have, though. I came very close – but I never forgot what he did. I’ve only called the company back out of pure desperation. If it happens again, he’d better get ready for a full-blown hissy fit that would make a toddler’s temper tantrum look tame.

One man working for a company that did yard work a few years ago never took his cigarette out of his mouth the entire time he was here. As soon as it was done, he’d flick it away and then light another one. The cigarette couldn’t have waited?

Lately, a couple of companies have come to my home to do work – and again let me emphasize that they did good work – with each and every one of their employees dragging in big honkin’ cups of take-out coffee that could have launched Noah’s ark if they’d spilled. If it were me, I would have left the coffee in the vehicle.

Now, I’ve gone to a few meetings with a barrel-full-o’-coffee in tow a few times. I admit it – but it’s for meetings with people I know very well. It’s certainly not something I drag along with me to a first meeting, nor would I ever consider taking it with me into someone’s home unless I knew them beforehand.

It’s just that when someone enters your home or property, you would expect them not to be carrying barrels of coffee around your house that could spill or flicking cigarettes onto your lawn like it was their personal ashtray.

I guess being the personal etiquette valet to Queen Elizabeth for all those years has just made me fussy, eh? I have to find something to pick at! Heck, I’m just now trying to figure out which glass of water and roll are mine in a formal dining setting. How many times have I started drinking someone else’s water or began munching on their roll while they sit there staring at me like I’m some sort of knuckle dragger who just this very minute evolved from the apes?

I would have most certainly been fired by Her Majesty the other day when I attended a coffee meeting with a colleague. We pretty much agreed we’d each pay for our own after he decided he wanted one of those coffees that cost an arm and a leg – some kind of extra-large latte with multiple shots of espresso and flavours. I just ordered a plain old coffee and put some cream in it while Mr. Fancy Pants placed his oh-so-pricey concoction on the table.

coffee meetingAs we were talking, I took a long swig of my coffee. It tasted awful. What did they put in this thing? Dishwater? It was so strong that my eyes nearly exploded. It was then that we both realized that I’d started drinking out of his thousand-dollar latte. I guess I should have offered to buy him a new one, but seeing how it would have taken awhile for me to turn a few tricks around Victoria Park before I could afford to pay for it, he accepted my kind offer of simply replacing the cover.

I don’t remember him drinking from it after that. I probably should have just bought another one for him – although emptying out my pockets and maxing out my credit cards to pay for the darn thing would have just made me cry in public – and no one wants to see a grown man cry in public, especially when he’s standing there with his empty pockets turned out.

I always find it awkward when I go for a coffee with someone and we do the little who’s-gonna-pay dance. While I didn’t opt for an expensive latte during the aforementioned meeting, I have to admit that I often do have my heart set on something wildly expensive when I visit those specialty coffee shops. At this time of year, it’s usually a pumpkin spice latte. Decadent. Too much sugar Too delicious for words.

So when the other person insists on treating, I’m usually really blunt and just admit that I’m going to order something so expensive that they’ll have to sell one of their children’s kidneys on the Russian black market in order to afford it. We have a good laugh – and then I stare at them with a steely-eyed look of madness that only someone who really needs a pumpkin spice latte can give.“I’m not kidding.” That’s when things get real in Coffee Town. It’s either that or I just order one after the meeting (which also featured coffee) meaning I’ll be ultra-caffeinated and not sleep for two days.

Either way, I’m getting that latte And, as you read earlier, I’m certainly not above drinking yours when you’re not looking. I’m entitled to my entitlements.

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