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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