If asked to come up with the definition of etiquette, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if half the population guessed it to be a state in New England. Surely, the word hasn’t been relegated to the archives just yet. But outside of an amusing Larry David skit now and again, it seems the meaning of etiquette has become more useless than a pre-game show.
Let’s take Coffee Shop Etiquette for example.
Last week I found myself standing in line for coffee. The line was hemmed along the entire length of counter space and it was bordering precipitously on a front entrance door which was busy wrestling with a muscular wind of the sub-freezing variety. Not to mention the early morning hour was gaining on a lot of us.
Time, was of the essence.
At the front of the line stood a woman whose backside very likely could have sold ad space for LeBron James in Cleveland last year . . but I digress. She promptly ordered a pumpkin spice latte before changing her mind as the barista engaged in manual labor for what seemed like the first time ever.
“No, I better not do that. I had that yesterday. Ummm, well . . . how’s your green tea latte?”
The barista shrugged. This proved to be the most constructive dialogue of the exchange. From here I was taken on a ride the likes of which I haven’t experienced since I went doggy style on a high school study partner whose proportions were quite similar to the Andes mountains.
In the time lost to static dust I learned there are six thousand varieties of chai tea. But we still haven’t found a cure for cancer, which makes God quite the epicurean prankster.
She finally brought the proceedings to a screeching halt- for the umpteenth time- by making a decision. “I’ll go with my usual” she announced to the barista, whose look of consternation forced her into explaining it as a”Caramel Brulee Latte”. I spent so much time waiting for this monumental decision that I feel as if I should ask the coffee shop for a W-2.
Never once did she acknowledge the line of people waiting patiently behind her. It was her world and we might as well have been ottomans. And while the disinterested barista with the Che Guevara tat did bear some responsibility for moving the line along, at least his lack of motivation can be chalked up to the fact he lives his life at the bottom of a tip jar. His impersonation of a government worker doesn’t absolve this woman in the least.
My coffee shop etiquette is really pretty simple. If I’m undecided, I step to the side and let others pass until I’ve made up my mind. I don’t stand there muttering coffee varietals in pig Latin while the poor schlubs behind me take out life insurance policies. I understand common sense to be a very uncommon commodity, but does that mean common courtesy has to be liquidated as well?
But what can you expect when the other half of the population thinks etiquette is a rap star?