I have something horrible to tell everyone. You may want to brace yourselves. If you’re standing, please sit. Sitting, please lay. If you’re already lying down, hold on to something. Are you holding on to something? No, I don’t care if it’s your stuffed rabbit, and no I won’t tell anyone.
I suffer from an incurable brain disease. It’s very rare. It only occurs when I am faced with an inordinate amount of choices, pressed to make a decision quickly, and forced to present my decision in a formulaic, precise manner. I call it Starbucks Blackout.
The first time I encountered this strange ailment I was on break at work and had only a few moments to choke down a pre-packaged cardboard sandwich and cold drink. I quickly ordered what I thought was a venti skinny iced chai. What flowed through my friendly green straw, however, was something entirely different. Instead of a comforting, spicy flavor I tasted over-caffeinated, vanilla coffee.
I turned back to the counter and asked the girl what I’d ordered.
“A latte,” she said, gesturing to my cup, as if simply looking at it was proof enough that this, indeed, was what I had ordered.
“I told you I wanted a latte?” I asked.
“Well…yeah.” I could tell I had shaken her own faith with my confusion. “Isn’t that what I gave you?”
“Yes,” I said slowly, squinting, cocking my head as if studying her face closer would bring me nearer to sorting out this mess. “But I wanted a chai.”
“I can make you a chai,” she said, reaching for a cup, “That’s really no problem.”
“No,” I shook my head. “You don’t have to. I just…I really ordered a latte?”
“S’what you said.”
I turned away from her then, my self-trust shattered. If I could order a latte when I really intended to order a chai, what else was my feeble mind capable of? Would I next walk out of a salon with my head shaved when I had just wanted a trim? Be bogged down with plastic bags at the market when I clearly preferred paper?
The next few days revealed that thankfully, my dementia was confined to overpriced, extremely addictive refreshments. And I have learned to cope by instructing all the baristas at my local Starbucks to look me square in the eye, purse their lips sternly, and ask, “Are you absolutely sure you want a mocha/latte/venti skinny chai extra hot extra pump no foam?” And I will nod and I will say, relieved that I had dodged another flare-up, “Yes I’m sure.” Or I will fidget, look around to make sure no one was watching, and shake my head in shame.
It’s a very disheartening disease. Painful. But I am soldiering on. As far as I know, there is no cure, though I’m sure some undergrad from MIT hopped up on caffeine who spends far too much time listening to the whoosh of steaming milk is doing some case studies. One can only hope.
If you are with me during one of these harrowing attacks, don’t panic. Pat me on the back, offer to buy me the drink I actually wanted, and wait to laugh at me until I’m out of earshot. Oh, and please send cards, condolences and checks to 1069 Woodbine Road, Saginaw, MI 48609.