I've been a barista for almost a decade and I've seen the best and worst customers have to offer. Caffeine can be nasty: Deprived people do crazy stuff.
Here's a list of activities that draw the ire of the person behind the espresso machine. Print it out, keep it in your pocket, learn it and be secure in the knowledge that you haven't made yourself an enemy you'll see every morning.
1. "Not having your coffee yet" isn't a good excuse for anything.
It's early, you are tired and you haven't had your first hit of caffeine yet. Poor child. This does not make it okay to have forgotten your money, or what drink you were supposed to get for your hungover boyfriend, or to spill an entire 12-ounce cup of coffee on the ground. If you can't function without a cup of overpriced coffee roiling about in your belly, sequester yourself until you have had it.
2. You are not prepared.
You have been waiting in line for 10 minutes, the menu dangling above you, yet as you sloth-walk to the register you stare at me with eyes agog and mouth ajar, no knowledge whatsoever of what you might order. I'm not the only angry one: that line of customers behind you is building up a solid head of impatient steam.
3. You are still not prepared.
If you know what you want, know how much it costs. Scramble around in your purse prior to the drink being handed to you. Rifling through your receipts and empty gum wrappers for a nickel tip does nothing but tighten the coil of my anger one more notch. And who knows when that thing is going to snap?
4. Money is passed from hand-to-hand.
You and I, we are both human beings. When you carelessly dump a wad of sweaty dollar bills on to the counter in front of me instead of gingerly placing them in my calloused hand, it makes me feel like a badly lit vending machine. Or a hooker. I'm not paid enough to pretend to be either.
5. You will never learn how to make latte art.
I pour between 100 and 150 latte drinks a day. The intricate muscular pattern required to pour rosettas in the top of your micro-foamed latte has been digitally encoded into my soul. How do I do it? Hours and hours of standing behind a glowing hot espresso machine pouring drinks. Can I teach you how to do it? If you can afford to quit your high-end finance job and dedicate 20 grueling hours a week to delicately dumping steamed milk into ristretto shots of espresso, then yes, yes I can. If not, next please.
6. No photographs please.
Latte art is pretty and seemingly complicated, I understand that. What I don't understand is the customer standing on a stool, iPhone in hand, trying to get the best angle on the heart I just sliced into his cappuccino while a line of 30 people stews behind. Can't stand the thought of never seeing that dairy-based tulip ever again? Order another drink.
7. Stop staring.
Standing behind a counter is the food industry equivalent of being in a cage. This feeling of imprisonment is not helped by you lurking two feet to the left of the register surreptitiously ogling me as I prepare your quad-shot soy latte. The continued presence of your beady eyes on my back will not speed up the delivery of your drink. Kindly step to the rear of the shop and loiter with the other caffeine addicts.
8. What did you do to that condiment table?
Okay, you're excited. You have your coffee and you are at the condiment station shoveling sugar and cream into the murky abyss and you are just so close to having that coffee in your mouth. This does not justify you spraying cream in concentric circles or leaving a foam- and sugar-caked spoon plastered to the table.
9. This ain't a restaurant. Bus your damn table.
I am not a waiter. I do not walk away from my shift with a bulge of $20 bills spilling from my pocket. When you are done with your delicious pastry and coffee, I am not expected to sweep in and usher your discarded dishes away. That's what you and the bus tub are for. Leaving a pile of napkins and soiled plates on the table is the equivalent of pouring a cup of coffee on the floor and walking away. It's a mess I have to clean up and it does not make me happy.