Service with a smile

I was waiting for my wife and daughter to finish the fondo, I hadn’t had anything to eat since that piece of toast at 4:30, and a cup of coffee sure sounded good. Instead of Starbucks I put on my holiest-than-thou hat and searched the Internet for a homegrown coffee shop in Ventura.

The perfect place popped up and it was only a few minutes away: family owned, home roasted, the perfect alternative to Corporate Coffee. I drove over and it was not only closed, but closed for good. It is hard to make a business run on the occasional do-gooder from out of town and his $1.95.

I parked along a strip called “Old Town Ventura” which ran along the 40-lane freeway, a giant fence separating the strip from the industrial death and mechanized ugliness of U.S. 101. Whoever wrote “Ventura Highway” wasn’t writing about this.

I walked for half a mile along the row of tiny businesses until I came to a cafe. It was packed. I was now wildly hungry but had decided to settle on what I’d come for, a cup of coffee. The cafe was really small and I decided to keep moving until I saw the signboard in front that said “Lattes, Cappuccinos, espresso drinks made to order!”

I went in and it was hopping. The lone, harried waiter looked over. “For one?” he asked.

“I’m sorry,” I said. “I just want a cup of coffee. You are pretty slammed though so no big deal.”

“No problem! To go?” He was so cheerful. Happy. Eager to help.

“Yes, please,” I said. He dashed behind the counter and I pulled Douche Move One. “I’m sorry, could you make it a cappuccino?”

“Of course!”

Here he was in the middle of the crazy Saturday late morning rush, one of two times during the week when he was going to actually make money, and I was asking for a cup of coffee.

I went outside to wait. After a while I went back in and my coffee was on the counter. I reached into my pocket to pay and my heart sank, realizing I was about to pull Douche Move Two. As I had hurriedly left that morning I’d grabbed my driver license and a hundred dollar bill, jammed them into my jeans, and left.

Now I was going to pay for a $2 cup of coffee with a hundred dollar bill. I contemplated simply saying I had no money at all, but then I wouldn’t be able to leave a tip. I sucked it up. “Man I am so sorry,” I said, handing him the bill.

He looked at it for a second as I hoped he’d reach into his pocket and break it with tips. “No problem,” he said without missing a beat.

He opened the register and slowly emptied it; no one pays with cash anymore. He counted out the change, using his last five dollar bill, still smiling through my humiliated apologies. “Don’t worry about it, man. We appreciate the business.”

I shoved a five-dollar tip across the counter.

“You don’t have to do that,” he said.

“Actually,” I thought, “I do.”



At least I didn’t try to tip him $2.99. Please consider subscribing  … Click here and select the “subscribe” link in the upper right-hand corner. Thank you!


10 thoughts on “Service with a smile”

    1. So weird to travel Ventura Highway and listen to that song. It might as well have been written on a different planet.

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