By Angela Noel
December 28, 2017
I have a teensy weensy Starbucks addiction. The app seduced me. Though remembering my stupid password is probably the hardest and most frustrating trial of my life (and I’m including childbirth), I love the simplicity of paying with that barcode and walking away with an expensive little piece of indulgent heaven.
Because earning those reward stars (though my husband informs me they are worth less than a penny) makes me happy, I choose to go more often than I should. They’ve got me. They got me good. But this post isn’t about Starbucks or the wondrous app. It’s about a real jerk.
Recently, my app failed me. I stood red-cheeked with my arms filled with gift cards, a mug, and a steaming peppermint mocha with no way to pay for it all. The barista all but rolled his eyes and shunted me to the side while I struggled to remember my password in order to add funds to my account. Flustered, I could feel the green-aproned fellow judging me for my incompetence.
So, I left with only my mocha. My dignity lay in tatters on the warm gray tiles of the well-swept floor.
A week later, I returned to the Starbucks to find the evil barista taking orders behind the counter. I sensed his disdain as he no doubt recognized my distinctive red coat. I took a deep breath, ready for the eye roll. “What’s a Black and White Mocha?” I asked.
“You know,” he snarked, “it’s dark chocolate and white chocolate mixed together.”
“Oh,” I didn’t want to look him in the eye. “I’ll have that.”
“What size?” He sighed, as if I was too stupid to be alive.
Though I’d planned to stay awhile, I wanted to get out of the glare of this rude person’s spotlight. So, I scooted out of line and waited, toe tapping, for my drink.
Confronting the Jerk
But I didn’t leave. Being chased from a Starbucks seemed stupid, even wrong. I sat, determined to enjoy my moment and my mocha. Because I have some experience with questioning the stories in my head, I thought I had better pay attention. I heard the barista talking to other patrons and he used the same tone with them that he had with me. Wait . . .. Was I reading into that tone? Was I clinging to a story? I sipped my Black and White Mocha. I watched and listened.
Actually, he was quite friendly. He laughed and talked and yes, there was that tone, but now I think I’d got it all wrong. I waited awhile and when I’d downed the last drop of mocha, I made my way to the door.
Directly in my path, the barista crouched over a trash can, swapping out the bag for a fresh one.
“I’m not looking forward to going out there,” I said, catching his eye and nodding to the negative eight-degree Fahrenheit air just outside the glass doors.
He didn’t hesitate. “Right? I had to go outside earlier and I thought I was going to die! It’s terrible!” The bag billowed in his hand. “Have a great night and stay warm!”
Clearly, those eye rolls didn’t happen. I made the whole thing up in my mind. The jerk, of course, was me. Through the lens of my embarrassment, I made wild assumptions about what the barista was thinking. I interpreted his actions, his words, his tone, all wrong.
A moment later, the frigid air took my breath away. But, better cold outside than in.
Your turn: Have you ever misinterpreted someone else’s actions only to discover your mistake? What did you do?
Note: There’s a few cognitive biases here . . . can you spot them?