500 Words Per Day

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Communication Breakdown - Right Before My Eyes

How many times can you recall being a witness to incompetence in motion? How many times have you actively watched a communication breakdown take place and recognized the instant a ball was dropped?

Last Sunday started off like so many Sundays. I reluctantly got out of bed at noon. My body felt like the gnarled roots of an old forest tree and the only thing keeping me from complaining from feeling so tired was the knowledge of not having to go to work.

With lunch and coffee on my mind, I got myself ready and trekked out with the intention of visiting my neighbourhood Starbucks, followed by a trip to one of my favourites, Mix Bakery. You can get some nice bread at Mix but their grilled sandwiches are even better. I alternate between their Chimayo Chicken sandwich and the Granny Gobbler, a turkey sandwich that is to die for.

Medium dark roast in hand, my final stop was Mix and I expected to be in and out of there in 5 minutes. I walk in the door and the place is jam-packed. I've never seen the place so busy, even on a weekend afternoon. The store is not terribly large; just a short row of 2-person tables and a counter near the window for patrons who like sitting on stools. Every seat was filled and an impressive line-up to the cash register nearly reached the door.

There was a group of 4 teenaged boys ahead of me with exactly the same idea as me: grab a delicious sandwich to go. Three clerks were attending to the madness behind the counter. One in particular was pretty cute, sort of your prototypical "girl next door". She's all bright smiles and is really easy to look at. Anyway, these guys in front of me order up their sandwiches, which are obviously selling like hotcakes at this point in the day. The last in the group to order requests a Chimayo Chicken, exactly the sandwich that was on my mind too. The Girl Next Door checks the display rack and reports back saying they're all out so she'll have to ask the kitchen to start making some more.

So she heads off to the back, which I should say is wonderful to look at. I tend to like bakeries that have the open view concept that allows customers to see what's going on behind the scenes. It all looks so fine, homey and oddly enough, comfortable. All I can think of when I see stuff like that is "fresh" and "homemade" and "Tastes Great!". I've even felt the urge to get a job as an assitant baker, just to hang out in the kitchen, learn something practical and soak up the atmosphere. Anyway, off she goes to get more of those chicken sandwiches made. It's finally time for me to order and another clerk has stepped in to assist me. Maybe it was not being fully awake or I was just plain being thick-headed, but I ordered a chicken sandwich anyway, knowing full well that I would have to wait at least another 5 minutes. I remember Girl Next Door telling the other guy it would be 5 minutes. Oh well, what's the big deal? It's Sunday, I've got nothing going, so I'll wait.

The new girl helping me out was not so cute. Thin, bespectacled and generally dorky looking. I don't think I really noticed her until now. She seemed slow and awkward so I figured she was a new hire. I order my sandwich and she goes through the motion of checking the display case. Nope, none there. By then the cutie had come back and bespectacled girl finds out there's a new batch being made. I knew this was the case and agree to wait. Normally, I just pay what I ordered and just wait for them to give it to me. I slide on over to the end of the counter where the cash register is. No one rings me up, not the skinny guy with the buzz cut, not Girl Next Door and most surprising, not even the girl who took my order. I look over: the line-up is gone. I was the last one. Still, there are tasks to be done and all the clerks are getting orderes ready and busy bustling.

Sure enough a few more customers come in and I'm still left there at the cashier's desk with money in my hands. The Girl Next Door stops midstep at one point and asks if I've been helped. "Uhh, yeah sort of. I ordered a sandwich and they're making more in the kitchen, right?" She just smiles back and goes on her way. Okay, so now I'm worried that my order never got registered. The dorky girl never took my money, at least not until I got her attention and asked if they wanted my money. Turns out they do.

So after I pay, I settle down with a copy of The Province and wait for my lunch. Ten minutes pass. The kid who ordered the same sandwich is still waiting with his friends, who have all been devouring their lunches. I'm a patient dude. I'm Zen. Another five minutes pass and now I'm getting fidgety. The Province is a bore and I'm worrying about the Starbucks coffee I left in the car. I want to bring my coffee in to drink while I wait but I start worrying about committing a faux pas for bringing in a competitor's product into Mix. I snap out of that line of thinking quickly though. I've been waiting twenty minutes for a grilled sandwich. Fuck them if they don't like my Starbucks coffee.

I get back with my drink and resume my place at the table. A few minuets pass and that kid finally gets his sandwich. He and his buddies bolt out of there. More time passes. Man, I've been a patient S.O.B.

I walk up to the counter. "How's that sandwich coming along?" I think I'm barely smiling. I probably look very bored, borderline grumpy.

"Oh... yeah I'll get that for you." I no longer find Girl Next Door as cute as I did earlier on. A few seconds later, she calls out to me, "Did you want it grilled?" Yeah, now she's just annoying. She had totally forgotten about my order. "For here or to go?" To go... and for the love of all that is good and holy just bring me my fucking sandwich. I could have said something similarly rude, but I'm just too nice of a guy.

I sit back down and look at my watch. Half an hour! Girl Next Door rushes over and serves me my sandwich on a plate. "Um, I wanted this to go."

"Oh, I'm sorry! I saw you sitting here and thought you were staying."

Kill me now. Thankfully, she got the sandwich wrapped up and bagged without any further incident. Leaving that store with my long-awaited sandwich was surprisinlyg anti-climactic. If there was a way I could have walked out of there in slow motion, arms raised with my sandwich cupped in both hands. Maybe add a subtle halo effect to it. Cue the angelic choir music. Over-dramatic? Meh, maybe. It's a delicious Chimayo Chicken sandwich, after all.

I don't know how else I could have handled that situation. I watched the incompetence unfold before me and I had a premonition about it too. I have to learn how to get on people's asses more.


Blogger beemused said...

ack the incompetency of some people!

just yesterday, I waited at the doctor's office for an UNNECESSARY extra 30 minutes. why? because the idiot of a receptionist forgot to put my bloody file in the "to be processed" rack!

and because she didn't bother to even apologize I was fuming. I only realized afterwards that I should've bloody told her off. I think unpleasant confrontations are needed if people are to get shit done properly. otherwise, they'll just keep being idiots.

7:58 PM  

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