This morning, after standing in a nervous line of 20 people at Peet's coffee, I was finally summoned to the register. The lady taking my order was a barrista who had come over from her espresso station to help bring the line down more quickly. I ordered my usual: a large latte. Her response was, 'what kind of milk? Whole? Lowfat? Non-fat? Soy? ...'
It seemed like she might have gone on for a few minutes, so in the short pause after 'Soy?'--and because I like playing games with confusing cultural norms--I interjected, 'Normal.' She smiled knowingly and looked down to the register to key in the decision.
Not being able to leave it alone, I tested, 'That still means whole, right?'
'It does to me,' was her response.
'So, I'm waiting for the day when that will no longer be the case. How long do you think that will take?', I pressed.
'Well, technically...', she started with a hint of disdain, looking over her shoulder like an undercover agent trying to avoid having her cover blown.
'No way!' I waved my head in disbelief. 'So, technically, normal means lowfat now?'
'HA!' she snorted, 'Non-fat!' She leaned forward to get the words to me just that tiny bit more quickly.
'Can you believe that?', she asked, 'I mean, non-fat..., that's just..., well, gross!'
'No kidding, you might as well be adding water.'
'You know, its all about the calories now. People want fewer calories and I guess don't care so much about taste,' she explained, trying to make some sense of the world.
'Yeah, but still...,' I trailed off. 'So do people even order non-fat though?', I queried naively.
'Oh yeah!, she stated, closing her eyes and pursing her lips while nodding in a diagonal direction.
'But not more than lowfat..?', I stammered, hoping I had heard the extent of the shocking news.
'OH YEAH!', she gurgled emphatically in a voiced glottal fricative.
'Yikes!', I laughed, 'You know, I guess the world really is a crazy place, eh?'
'No kidding,' she laughed even more loudly, turning to go back to her battle station.
I went and stood by the wall to wait for my latte. She was making drinks, calling people by name, then at one point simply raised her eyes, looked straight at me and pointed to the counter that my coffee was ready. I walked over and picked up the cup. 'There you go, non-fat latte,' she chortled.
'With extra water?' I giggled.
She laughed, then stopped her milk spoon mid-air for a second and leaned forward and said, 'Did you know some people order with powdered milk?!'
'Ew, do you even have that?', I walked away guffawing, not waiting for an answer.
She smiled and settled back into her work.
I walked out the door; the sun glistening off my teeth laid bare by an ear to ear grin.