Coffee Conundrum

I have a problem. The following scenario happens far too often:

I stop at Starbucks on my way to work, and  someone else gets to the door a few seconds ahead of me. They hold the door, I say “thanks” and walk through, and they walk through behind me. What should I do next? I have three options.

1. I can just go directly to the counter. This seems a bit presumptuous, like the act of a mouse who, having been given a cookie, demands a glass of milk. Maybe I should just run with it and point out that since the other person is stuck behind me in line anyway, he might as well do something productive with his time, like wash my car. It’s the blue one with the three giant tubs of kitty litter in the trunk. Well, not the trunk, obviously, but whatever you call the storage space in a hatchback. Yeah. The one with the pile of empty Trader Joe’s bags on the passenger seat. That’s the one. Thanks.

2. I can tell the other person to go ahead of me. This never ends well. It just results in an uncomfortable “after you — no, after you” exchange that negates any good feelings left over from the initial interaction and goes on forever, or at least until one of us eventually notices that the dozen or so people who’ve accumulated in line behind us are glaring with varying degrees of hostility, raising the very real possibility that if one of us doesn’t give up and place an order immediately, we’re both at risk of being bludgeoned to death by an angry, caffeine-deprived, iPhone-wielding mob, which would be a horrible way to die, because iPhones are pretty light, actually, so it would probably take a really long time to beat someone to death with one.

3. I can wander off to the side and try to look like I’m doing something else until the other person is safely in line ahead of me. This is my usual strategy, but it doesn’t always work. Once while I was pretending to read notices on a bulletin board, I blocked the path from the door to the counter — which I failed to realize because I was so focused on my performance that I didn’t notice that the guy who’d held the door for me was waiting patiently for me to finish. I should have said something like “oh, go ahead — I want to spend a few more minutes admiring the lighting and composition of the photo in this lost cat ad,” but by then I was just too flustered to do anything but slink forward to the counter.

You’re probably wondering what I do when the situation is reversed. I don’t know, because that never happens. I never arrive at the door first. I haven’t been keeping exact records, but my best estimate is that in the last year someone else has held the door for me approximately 22.375 times, and I’ve arrived in time to hold the door for someone else exactly 0 times. I think people must see me coming and hide.

That’s my dilemma. What would you do in my place?

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42 thoughts on “Coffee Conundrum

  1. You’re a hoot, Laura.

    What a dilemma… I wouldn’t know what to do either… Have you considered the option of occasionally paying for the door-open-holder’s coffee?

    I’m puzzled by your calculation at the end, though – “in the last year someone else has held the door for me approximately 22.375 times”: based on those figures, you go to Starbucks more than 60 times a day?! This seems a little excessive…?

  2. I just go to the counter. Although when I am deprived of caffeine I hate the rest of the world, so I look at letting me through nicely as his or her attempt to ward off my morning anger.

  3. Go ahead and order first. They let you in the door first, that means you get to order first and I’m sure they expect it. I think they can wait the couple of minutes it will take you to order for their coffee or they would have barged ahead of you!

  4. This has never happened to me because I’m fairly certain I’m not trendy enough to be allowed inside a Starbucks. I used to stand outside… pressing my face into the glass and sobbing quietly… until I noticed these places seem to be bigger on coffee than cola. And then I felt better. Kinda.

  5. I’m glad I’m not drinking coffee right now because I would’ve spit it out after I read, “I want to spend a few more minutes admiring the lighting and composition of the photo in this lost cat ad.”
    That is so something I would do. Avoid the after you dance and wander over to peruse something else, like the super expensive espresso machine. Speaking of, who buys that at Starbucks?
    Thanks for the laugh!

    1. It’s really embarrassing when the person who held the door for you can tell you’re just pretending to be interested in something off to the side. Maybe people buy those espresso machines just to avoid that (“See how genuinely interested I am in this machine? You can tell because I’m buying it.”).

  6. Sacrilege to describe hurting an iPhone like that!

    I have the same issue you do, and usually choose option 3 more often than option 1, but still do that as well. I’m glad the other commenter said it was okay. I’ll try not to feel so bad about it anymore :)

    1. Sorry, I don’t understand what you’re trying to say. I mean, the words “stop”, “drinking”, and “coffee” make sense individually, but when you string them together like that you just get some weird nonsense phrase.

  7. The only time I go to Starbucks (I mean $4 for a cuppa?) is when I have to use the bathroom. So if someone holds the door for me it is no problem. And if they have only stopped to use the bathroom, well fuck them. They need to buy something.

    1. That’s brilliant. Next time this happens, I’ll go directly to the counter while muttering “fuck them, I’ve got my place in line” under my breath.

      BTW, the Starbucks around here all lock their bathrooms, so if you want to use the bathroom, you actually have to go to the counter first.

    1. Thanks! I’ve fixed it.

      The weird thing is that it actually worked for me. It turns out that if Firefox encounters a URL that starts with http:/ instead of http://, it will just silently correct it.

  8. I’ve had that happen before – it’s soooo awkward!

    Reminds me of a commercial I saw where a guy with 2 items asks to cut in front of another guy at the grocery store. When the guy who cut gets to the checkout, balloons and confetti fall and they say “Congrats – you’re our 1 millionth customer and you’ve won $1 mil!” The look on the face of the guy behind him is priceless.

    1. Don’t ever let me go ahead of you in a store. It seems like whenever that happens, one of my items won’t scan, and it takes forever for them to finish ringing up my order.

      1. I have notorious line-killing skills. It’s a documented fact. So, yeah, if I let you cut, it would turn out to be the longest checkout experience of your life.

  9. That, my dear, is an assumed obligation undertaken by the holder of the door that you shall have the spot in line ahead of them. Secretly, they are hoping your only there to use the bathroom, but nonetheless, you have claimed the rights by walking through the door (not that you could refuse them, its more of a grand-dad wants to give you gas money thing)… Take the spot, and relish in the coffee coffee buzz buzz come first! Who knows, maybe you can offer some Natural Sugar for their mocha-chino-latte at the swizzle stick station?

    1. Forget the swizzle station — once I have my coffee in hand, I’m outta there. There’s no way I’m going to risk one of those awkward “who gets to use the cinnamon shaker first?” moments.

    1. Oh, no! Everyone else said I didn’t have to do that! Your story reminds me of the time I was in line at the supermarket with a cart full of groceries, and the two women behind me had a very pointed discussion about people who get in the express lane with too many items. This was pretty clearly intended to be a passive-aggressive jab at me, but they’d misread the signs: the express lane was the next one over.

      I love the idea of that couch, but it doesn’t look very comfortable.

      1. Did you point out to them that they were in the wrong queue?

        I suppose the couch designers were too busy making it fun for cats, to make it comfortable too. Although I think my cat would get bored with it after a while.

        1. No — at the time I was annoyed and didn’t feel like getting in a confrontation with the unpleasant passive-aggressive people. By the time I realized that I could have approached it with the attitude of helping them instead of defending myself, it was too late.

  10. I think the people who are holding the door open for you are probably pretty considerate people. If they are doing it for you than others are doing it for them. So, you should just continue to be a part of their good karma. All this thinking is really going to mess things up. Let them open the door and then take your place right in front of them so they can continue on with their good karma filled lives.

    1. I think I’ll have to — I’m pretty sure I’ll hear your comment in my head the next time I find myself in this situation.

  11. Love it. :P I usually opt for a variation on #3. I go into the room and pretend to be looking for someone I’m meeting there until the person who held the door is safely in line. Then I get in line behind them.

  12. This morning I slowed to let a woman into the coffee shop ahead of me…she didn’t say thanks, the service was slow, and I left feeling grumpy….next time I’m going to run to make sure I’m there first and then stare intently into my phone so I don’t notice the piercing stares from behnind

  13. Where is Miss Manners when you need her? LOL. I live in the south. We are always holding doors and doing the ‘after you’, ‘no, after you’, scenario. I say give them a big smile and a ‘thank you’ and then continue to the counter. But I would also offer a nice ‘have a great day,’ as I exited, acknowledging their kindness once again.

    But if you are placing orders for the entire office, say more than a couple of coffees, I would explain they should go ahead as your order might take a while to complete.

    And now I am craving a coffee! Must get in line.

    1. See, that’s the difference between someone from the South and me. It would never occur to me to issue a follow-up pleasantry.

  14. It happens all the time. I’m just waiting for that day when the, “You go ahead,” “No, please– be my guest,” “No, no — I insist” simultaneously becomes, “Oh, well, alright — thank you!” so that both of us having lunged forward at the same moment get wedged into the doorway (and someone helpful throws a bucket of cold water on us). Had you considered this possibility?

    1. The worst part of that scenario is that I live in LA, so instead of throwing a bucket of cold tap water, they’d throw expensive bottled water — and then we’d have to deal with the awkward question of who should pay for it.

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