When ‘most people’ really means ‘me’

HE ENTERED THE coffee shop through the wrong door, embodying “against the grain.”

Most people would have realized that everyone else was going the other direction. He was, however, not most people.

In his Spanish soccer jersey, French driving shoes and Italian sunglasses he reminded one of Sir Edwin Henry Landseer’s famous painting, “The Travelled Monkey,” a curious study depicting a sophisticatedly dressed monkey wearing all the trappings of his world wide journeys, returning home to his monkey friends, only to look ridiculous in comparison.

“The line starts over there,” said the woman behind the counter.

“Most places have you enter on this side,” he said to no one in particular.

The young woman behind the counter cocked her head in that fashion that service people do when something doesn’t quite compute.

“OK,” she said pleasantly. “But our line starts over there.”

He stepped in front of the last two people in line.

“We’re in line,” they said as politely as two people being cut off can.

“Oh,” he said. “In most places there are signs.”

The couple pointed at the sign that said, “The Line Starts Here.”

“Oh,” he said. “In most places the sign is on the other side.”

There are people like this everywhere, ones who believe that by going somewhere or by doing something they acquire some type of special knowing. But as we all know, the act of

going into a place of worship or a place of learning or a gym, doesn’t actually do anything. It is the act of

doing that makes it all worthwhile. All the T-shirts and postcards in the world aren’t going to change that. Just ask Sir Landseer.

Two short espresso was ordered, or more correctly EX-presso. Apparently because that’s how most places do it.

“Can I get a name for the drink?” the young woman behind the counter asked.


She started to write it on the cup when he interjected, “I spell it J-H-O-N. Most places get it wrong.”

A few minutes later she called out the name John.

A minute later she called the name again, and again a minute after that.

Jhon finally appeared.

“Most places get the pronunciation wrong,” he said.

As sure as shooting, Jhon returned a few seconds later.

“Excuse me,” he said.

The person making a dozen or so coffees pointed at the woman behind the cash register. In fact the very same young woman that had taken Jhon’s order.

“This is not what I imagined,” he said shoving the two coffees at her.

“Most places make them like …” which was followed by a convoluted set of instructions that I’m reasonably sure no place anywhere follows.

“I don’t know how most places do it,” said the young woman politely, “but that’s how we do it here.”

“I go all over the world,” Jhon said, “and that’s how most places do it.”

A brief back and forth ensued, with Jhon insisting that “most places” do this and that.

“I can certainly make it that way,” she said “Here, we call that a long pull, just for future reference.”

The second coffees came back with a tap on the glass and another pointing to the young woman. The third, too.

Eventually the young lady returned Jhon’s money. “I am so sorry. It seems that we just can’t make you happy.”

“But, I get coffee all over the world,” he said.

“I am never coming back here,” he said, eventually leaving through the door in which everyon else was coming in.

Leaving me with these thoughts:

• On behalf of the other patrons and employees of that coffee shop I hope Jhon is man of his word.

• Three decades in the service industry and one in journalism have led me to conclude that people will often say “most” when they mean “many” or “some” and sometimes even “one.”

• For some people being right can supersede getting it right.