Instead of no service, where I become your unpaid employee (as in the soon-to-be-late-and-unlamented Fresh & Easy), or excessive service, where I’m paying an extra $1.25 for the pleasure of watching you fuss your brains out with a pour-over, how about I order “coffee”, you pour it into a to-go cup, and I pay you and leave?
Does this make me a codger? A coffee place I pass by on my commute just closed and I am vexed! It used to be called Eagle Rock Coffee, on Alvarado just north of Sunset. It was a funky, one-off coffee shop that seemed always near the brink of chaos – newspapers lying around, hand-written signs for where to pour your “liquids”, community bulletin board, flyers for local bands. Just two weeks ago I stopped in and chatted with the lady about the book she was reading, Steve Martin’s Born Standing Up. We discussed how much an awful childhood contributes to a career in comedy, and so how do you explain Steve Martin?
Next day, they’re closed, windows lined with butcher paper. Clearly, there was too much chat, not enough profit.
So I drive by today, and I’m confronted by a shiny new shop: Tierra Mia. They have an interesting corporate persona – Latino (lots of Spanish on the menu, walls lined with pictures of happy coffee farmers, faces seamed with the joy of honest labor; presumably these pictures depict their coffee suppliers, but who knows – they might have bought them at Ikea) plus fussy Intelligentsia-style pour-over. I bustled in to grab a coffee for the second half of my commute, and discovered a whole new place – I was supposed to pick a variety of coffee, then wait for a pour-over ritual, then tell them my “lightener” preference (for the record, I take whole milk – cow’s milk; it’s what I call “milk”)… it turned my morning coffee from a pleasant, quick interaction with quirky individualists into a tedious chore dealing with focus-grouped, corporate-scripted, employees. Another thing, both people were hard to understand – and, no, not because of any accent, but just because they had lousy diction, and there’s street noise. The young lady behind the counter had a mouth full of impressive-looking braces, and a lisp like a punctured oxygen tank, and the young man just spoke indistinctly. To their credit, they saw my frustration and impatience, and offered me an Americano, which they said was the quickest thing I could get, so I did, for $2.50.
The upshot was that the coffee was fine, though more expensive than I like for my grab-n-go morning java. It could be that, with the advent of the pour-over model yielding higher profits, that regular coffee shops will go the way of “regular coffee” (that’s the old New York term for a cup of coffee with milk: no choice of sizes, no choice of amount or type of lightener, add your own sugar).
So, at the risk of being a codger, I hate it.