Saturday morning. A man and woman walk into Boheme, approach MB, and order.
“I’ll have a nonfat mocha, no whipped cream, NO FOAM,” the woman snarls.
“Yeah,” the man adds, “if it has foam, she’ll scream and break things.”
I stop and look at him over the espresso machine — to see if he’s joking, to see if she’s getting pissed, to see if these people are for real. He catches my eye for a split second; he’s serious. His look is equal parts fear and threat. What’s more, the woman doesn’t seem annoyed that he’s just outed her to strangers as a total beeyotch. It doesn’t even seem to register with her. She just sort of drifts around the room. How weird, I think.
Or maybe it’s that dance that boxers do seconds before they make someone hemorrhage from their head.
I’m kinda scared now, I also think. I hesitate for a second.
Do I really want to make a drink for someone who might scream and break things, someone who is drifting and/or doing the boxer’s dance of death? On the other hand, I decide, they seem like your basic Boheme muttonheads. Plus, they are staring at me, so, mechanically, I lug the milk out of the fridge, pour it into the steam pitcher, and start to steam.
Now, you may be surprised to learn that something happens to milk when you stick a hot steam wand into it. It gets hot, yes — but also, and even more surprisingly, its texture changes. Even if you’re not trying to make foam — and I know how to make some mean foam — it gets frothy. It’s more full-bodied, not thin anymore. And when you pour frothed milk into a drink, you will likely get a thin layer of — gasp! — white froth atop whatever brown concoction you’re making. The white may cover the brown. It’s just the way it is. To me, froth is not foam. Foam is something you carefully create; froth just happens.
So I pull the shots, add the chocolate sauce, and, finally, pour the steamed milk. At the top of the cup, there is the thinnnnnest layer of white. Maybe an eighth of an inch. I look at it and decide it’s fine. That’s not foam, right? We’ve established that, right? Still, I feel a little twinge in my gut, but think better of it. It’s a beautiful drink, I buoy my inner barista. Only a crazy person would make an issue of this, I soothe my inner frightened child.
Oh, Tracey. Tracey. You poor sad cow.
Gently, I push the drink across the counter to her and say, with fake certainty, “Okay. There ya go.”
She stares at it. The man stares at it. There is a huge pause. Huge. It’s like they’re having a moment of silence in honor of my wrongness. Really, it’s practically an homage, like for the dead people at the Oscars. I busy myself with, ah, cleaning my area.
Silence? What silence? They are admiring the perfection of .. it … all …
Then, as I straighten up from putting the milk in the fridge, I see it. The move of ultimate dismissal. Perfectly executed. It goes like this: the woman moves her head to the left as she says, “Oh. NO,” while, at the same time, her right hand pushes the drink to the right, towards her husband. Head moves one way, hand moves the other. She verbally AND physically rejects the drink. In one smooth move. Really, in retrospect, it was perfect. Left no doubts. You should all try it next time you want to make someone feel like crap.
The man now stands there alone and bug-eyed with the rejected drink. She has walked away. She hates the drink, obviously, but somehow, it’s his problem. Here we go. I wait for her to start screaming and breaking things. She actually seems to be doing breathing exercises now. Maybe to forestall the imminent statewide killing spree. The one that will start with me.
“Do I need to remake the drink?”
“Yes,” she throws over her shoulder.
“Well, it has foam,” the man whispers.
And I say — slightly defensively, I admit — “Um, well, milk does froth when you steam it, but I can remake it if you want.”
The man looks nervously at the woman, now pacing around Boheme, and offers, “Well, honey, if you want I can just drink that part off for you.”
Since I only steam enough for each individual drink, I reach down and take the milk out again.
“Okay. Don’t make more milk. Uhm, just scoop this off, will you, and add some hot coffee. You have hot coffee, don’t you?”
No, Slappy, we sell blood sausage. Pleease.
I skim the layer of offending froth from the top of her drink and splash some coffee in it.
The woman scowls at the drink, at me, at the man, and stomps out, leaving him trailing after.