When I am on the road by myself on a long trip, I am wise enough to stop regularly for a break, which generally involves a bathroom and a cup of coffee. But because I don’t want to stop long, the coffee is takeout and I want to be in and out as quickly as possible so I can get on the road again to get to wherever I am going to do whatever I am going to do. Generally, that involves some kind of ministry–visiting someone in the regional hospital, for example.
So, I stop for coffee and a bathroom. I stand in the line for the coffee, getting a bit frustrated when the people in front of me haven’t looked at the signs showing what is available to make their choices. Instead, they get to the counter as ask a million questions, ordering the most obscure and time consuming items on the menu. The frustration grows as the counter person struggles with the process, quickly showing that this is likely the very first time this particular individual has worked here.
Finally, I get to the counter and place my order–only two things: a coffee and a snack (you can’t drink coffee on the road without a snack, right?). The counter person gets the order wrong and I have to correct it. As it is being filled the counter person makes another mistake and another when punching in the prices. And to top it all off, the card reader won’t read the gift card I want to use, the card I know has enough money on it to cover everything. All the while, I am getting more and more frustrated, watching the time pass and the mistakes multiply. I want to bolt out of the line and get back on the road–don’t these people realize that I have important ministry to do and that they are wasting my time with this “fast” process?
I would go somewhere else but I like the coffee here and anyway, somewhere else is probably going to be the same and then I would waste even more time. I just want a cup of coffee (and snack) so I can get back on the road and get on with both my life and my ministry.
Hold that scene in your mind–I have confess that this has never actually happened to me this way. All these things have happened but not all together. This is the coffee stop from hell, the time when all that could possible go wrong goes wrong. But it does provide a sense of what I sometimes feel and think when in a situation like that.
My question is, “What do I say to the counter person?” I am always tempted to slam them with some comment about the service, their lack of skill or intelligence, or my decision never to return. I would like to make their day as miserable as mine has become because of a simple coffee stop. I want to grumble and complain and make them at least feel bad that they have inconvenienced me.
But I generally don’t do any of that. I know that I will be back–I like the coffee and they have a convenient location. Getting even won’t do anything much because most likely, anything I say will have been said before and with a lot more choice words than I generally use. Making a scene of any kind just slows me down even more.
And besides all that, I am a Christian and my faith needs to be an active part of my life, even when I am suffering through the coffee stop from hell. Even if the counter person doesn’t know or care that I am a Christian, I know I am a Christian and I know that part of my commitment to God is buying my coffee as a Christian. I can’t leave my faith in the car while I run in to the coffee shop. Mind you, giving a condensed version of the Christian faith probably isn’t a good idea in the coffee shop lineup either–that will only encourage others to act like I want to act.
So, I take my coffee and thank the counter person with a smile. If they apologize for the confusion, I offer them a kind of forgiveness by telling them it’s okay. Then, I head for the car, hoping they actually got the order right. It might not be a big thing, but I feel that I did at least function in as Christian a way as possible, maybe shining some light in the darkness.
May the peace of God be with you.