My favourite awkward aspect of my life that is a constant is ordering things in cafes and restaurants. I am hopeless at this. There are some key ways to be bad at being a customer, and here are my personal favourites:
- Have everyone turn up at different times, and get seated then ignored for reasons based on not explaining yourself clearly when you were seated. Curses to the attendee who turns up 10 minutes earlier than everyone else and needs the caffeine to be able to explain things about how she needs caffeine and what kind specifically she needs - see points 2 - 5. Classic catch-22, my friends.
- Mumble your order. Ensure this means that the person serving you has to ask you to repeat your order at least twice more. Make sure each repetition is a bit louder but still retains the quality of the original mumble. It’s important that both parties smile politely and helpfully at each other while you obliterate this exchange of information.
- Change your mind about what you want to order as the person taking your order gets to the table. Even better, change your mind as you open your mouth to order. Make sure your order comes out as a question due to your internalised shock at how you’ve slipped in an order game-changer at the last minute. “I’ll have a flat white on soy and the mushrooms?” you ask, effectively requiring that this person, who is not actually responsible for these sorts of decisions in your life, feels compelled to affirm your choice.
- Cafe-specific: Lack awareness of all the different parts of your order the cafe staff need to know in order to create a coffee for you. Not only do you need to choose milk or no milk, you need to choose the type of milk, you need to specify espresso or filter, you need to choose the kind of beans based on the daily special or the house bean. You need to pick a size. This part actually stresses me out so much that I hadn’t tried a lot of things until I had friends working at my favourite local cafe to patiently recommend and suggest to me some alternatives to try. Bless ya, Paddy and Ellen.
- Forget they’re going to ask you how you’d like your eggs and stop listening or interacting with the person taking your order because you firmly believe you have sorted yourself out to have something at least vaguely edible coming your way. Completely tune out to the point where all the other people at your table are snapping their fingers in your face to bring you back to earth. Jerk to attention and then basically yell “Oh! Poached! Thanks!” at the poor person taking your order.
- Eye contact. Too little or too much, but make sure it’s the wrong amount. I like to go for too little when the person taking my order is so attractive that it’s clear they’re probably also an actor or an artist with a studio and a loft and maybe they write poetry and they’re just looking to meet someone special and they didn’t ever EXPECT to meet someone while they were working but life is crazy that way and when is too soon to ask for a number and do they like Thai food and… you know. So: no eye contact with the hotties, but laugh at their jokes whenever possible. Make too much eye contact with the friendly ones (it’s rare that hot ones are also friendly, but if they are, rule 1 still applies) to the point where it’s a staring competition and nobody actually wins anything.
- Want more coffee and be weird about getting their attention to order more. In a perfect world, cafe staff notice as the final sip of coffee touches your lips and pop over to casually ask if you’d like another. As an aside, how many times in this scenario do they suggest coffee and you accept before they cut you off for being too caffeinated? Can you get cut off in a cafe? Must ask someone about this. In the real world, cafes are way too busy for that level of attention. I never want to be the dick who is like “um excuse me? We’d like more coffees?” (note, this is not really a question), but how to ask, how to ask… Engaging eye contact (tricky in consideration of the above point re: attractive staff) and hoping for the best is how I’ve approached this situation. Never not awkward, but I always mainly end up with more coffee, unless I surprise myself and order a mocha that will probably over-caffeinate and possibly kill me.
- Draw out the last coffee or bite of breakfast so long that the very busy cafe staff just give you the bill.
- Split the bill - cards, cash, incorrect change - throw it all in there.
- Exit via the crowded entrance: hit everyone on the way out with your incredibly full handbag (why is it so full? what the fuck do you have in there?) and blissfully ignore the glares until you get outside and realise what you’ve done.
There are many many more ways to be an awkward customer in cafes and restaurants, but these should be enough to get you started if this is a course of action you’re interested in.
There was more to this day: there was customer based awkwardness in Fitzroy and in Brunswick. I also nearly ‘bitch-please’d a person in a bar for not believing that I wanted Laphroig in my whisky drink. Sometimes it’s not me that’s the awkward one. Sometimes I know exactly what I want.
A special bonus round of awkwardness at Auction Rooms: the girl at the counter looked familiar to me, so I said “oh, Hi!” in that bright and familiar way you do when you’ve forgotten someone’s name but are making up for it with smiles. She was bright and friendly back. I sat down, rifling through the mental catalogue of uni and work friends for her greater context in my life. I hadn’t had coffee yet. The rifling continued. I stared at her a little more to get the synapses firing.
Halfway through greeting the friends that had just arrived, I realised I knew her from TV: a role in Josh Thomas’s “Please Like Me”. It’s a great show - you should check it out.