The first non-airport interaction I engage in with a stranger in the United States takes place in an airport, but at a Starbucks. We want one of those drinks with chocolate and coffee and ice, but blended ice not chunks of ice. And we don’t want cream and we want a small one. I have no idea what this is called. We start to read the menu.
That takes too long, its like a book written in a foreign language. I decide to ask the cashier. I explain what we are looking for and she tells me we want a mocha frappacino and shows me the size of the various cups. I say small but there is no small. I just point at the smallest cup, which seems quite large, and say we don’t want all that whipped cream.
She tells me how much it costs.
The line is growing longer.
I rummage through my purse. I’ve tried to keep the money from the last three weeks in different zippered pockets but it got confusing and the Somaliland shillings, Djiboutian franc, Kenyan shillings, and American dollars intermingled.
I pull out 2000 Djiboutian franc and it is wrapped around a five dollar bill. All the coins in my coin purse are Kenyan. There are some quarters in the pocket that has SIM cards from different countries and the necessary safety pin for popping that thing-a-ma-job in and out. But there are also other coins in there and American coins are so dang small and light weight, they feel like fakers. I pay with these lightweight coins but it feels like I’m paying with toy money.
I mumble something about how hard it is to order coffee in America.
The cashier smiles and says, “Where are you from?”
“Africa,” I say.
She looks confused but there is no time to linger. The line has grown longer. People want their coffee. No, this is America. People need their coffee and no amount of friendly conversation has a right to get in the way of the order of things, the process, the exchange of money and goods.
The drink was too sweet and the lemon bread my daughter got was way way too sweet. But we split the small/large frappacino between the three of us and threw away the last bit of lemon bread.
*image via Flickr
*image via Pixabay