Panera In Hyde Park Plaza–Neurotic Nirvana

“The end of the line is….over….HERE!”

I turned slowly to see a livid older blonde in a running suit about 15 feet away from the counter and pointing at the floor behind her. Evidently I had run afoul of the invisible beginning of the queue to the cashier and was being put in my place! Now that isn’t Panera’s fault but the clientele seem to be a little “high strung” at times. Rather than risk the wrath of this sensitive creature, I retreated behind her.

The man who was standing next to me was having a conversation with a friend. “The doctor told me that I can’t have anything I like to eat anymore. No: sugar, cream, nuts, or bread.”

“Oh nooooo,” said his companion sarcastically,”don’t tell me that you are GLOOO-TIN INTOLERANT!?!” Then there was a loud snicker.

The pissed off blonde turned and pinned the speaker with eyes resembling blow darts! Alas, he had his back turned to her and was laughing. Her fury was deflected.

The line shuffled forward, no one was reprimanded (thank God) and I finally found myself face to face with the cashier actually ordering a cup of coffee.  Simple, normal transaction.

However, when I went to fill my cup there was no coffee in the urns. OK, that isn’t a tragedy so I went back to the counter and got the eye of a cashier/worker and asked to have the coffee replenished. I got a grunt out of the employee. I took that for “OK” and went back to waiting for coffee.

Several minutes later another employee appeared. She started to fuss with the lids for the cups, making sure they were lined up correctly. Stirrers were checked, sugar packets were fluffed up.

“There isn’t any more coffee, can we please have some more coffee,” I asked politely.

“THAT CAN’T BE TRUE! THERE HAS TO BE COFFEE IN THOSE POTS. THERE HAS TO BE,” the employee had quite a deep seated belief that the coffee urns were perpetually brimming with freshly made aromatic coffees and could not possibly be drained within 20 minutes of 10:00 a.m. on Saturday morning.Why on earth would THAT  happen? Why? Why? Is there no justice? Am I going mad? Is this some hideous Kafkaesque plot? It’s like something from….THE TWILIGHT ZONE!!!!

“There isn’t any coffee in any of the pots. Can we have some more coffee,” I repeat to the obviously distraught woman who has just had an almost complete failure of the bed stone of her grip on reality itself.

“I can’t believe that there is no more coffee! I just can’t believe it!”

At this point I am pretty fed up with the idea that I have just paid for an overpriced cup of coffee and there is no coffee, I have asked for this simple item and now am getting the last act of Medea. What the hell is wrong with these people? Just pick up the pot and get another one, n’kay? Is this some Herculean  task?

There are 6 people darting about behind the counters. Some are actually performing work but most look like they are moving for the sake of moving and looking busy.

I still don’t have my coffee. But the drama…the drama! I need a Greek chorus behind me chanting a swaying,”The coffee..the coffee..the Gods have taken it! Aye! No more, the coffee for YOU!”

Others are gathering with empty cups. Things are going to become ugly soon. Patrons want what they paid for. Grrrr. Chagrin builds. I look at the employee who is still standing there staring at the empty coffee pots (I don’t think it occurred to her that she might try to test one and if she got so much as a drop of coffee out of it she could upbraid me for my churlishness and go back to fanning faux recycled napkins again). I state what I think is the obvious,”If you run out of coffee, then you can’t get more out of the pot. The coffee pot needs to be refilled.”

I hate to sound Draconian about it, but I hate even worse the thought of standing around for another 10 minutes waiting for the elegant notion to form that more coffee needs to be fetched from the bowels of whatever place it is created to serve to customers.

A man comes by searching for hot water. He has seen the exchange and mutters,”Thank God I only want hot water…if I had come for coffee I can’t imagine the fuss that would have stirred up.” I snicker. The woman finally beetles off with the empty coffee pot in tow. I presume that she will return with more BUT she might be heading for the kitchen to pour her heart out to anyone who will listen…the inequity of the dearth of coffee!

New pot of coffee appears.
It is drained quickly.
The employee has disappeared.
Good luck getting more.

(Panera has a hard time keeping its coffee pots filled in the Montgomery Road location as well…what is up with that?).

This past week has been filled with a series of peculiar events which have caused me to write up these vignettes of modern living in order to get them off my chest and get on with other more productive things. Makes me wonder what is so difficult and noisome about just doing what you said you were going to do and giving good service? 

 

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