I’m only going to say this about my second day at work: it was the Apocalypse, mixed with Ragnarok, and a sprinkling of the Book of Revelations.
First, I couldn’t sleep at all the night before. At one point, I thought I saw the chupacabra staring at me through my room window.
Second of all, I got out of bed at 6 a.m., and wondered whether someone got Bill Nye his decaf coffee. So I take the restaurant keys, give Lucas two Greenies, and walk over.
There is no decaf. I text the chef. No answer. I text Brian, the cook. After 15 minutes, he responds:
“Nope. I told Alex (the chef) to buy the decaf, but he didn’t do it. So, there’s no decaf.”
At which point, I close the restaurant and decide to find decaf. I see a police officer at the street corner, sitting on his bike, drinking CAFFEINATED coffee, the way God intended coffee to be drunk.
I run toward him.
He turns around. This police officer is the Puerto Rican version of Adonis: I have never seen such a beautiful man in my life (nor will I ever see one again, of this, I’m sure, because that’s how life is). His face had been expertly chiseled out of marble in his mother’s womb. His body was perfect, his hands were the strong yet delicate hands of a piano player, and his uniform had been freshly pressed. His skin was the color of melted cinnamon.
He is the epitome of virility.
He smiles. “Good morning! How can I help you?”
“Sir, oh my God, good morning. I’m a waitress, and there’s no decaf in the kitchen.”
“Kitchen? What kitchen?”
“The hotel down the street.”
“Ah. And you need decaf? Decaf?” He raises his eyebrows.
“Well, we have this guest that’s coming in half an hour, and he only drinks decaf.”
“Yes. And I need to find decaf, and I don’t know where to find decaf, and I’m running out of time, and I have my car parked in the Presbyterian Hospital parking lot.”
“Oof! That’s far away.” He sips his coffee and mulls this over. “Well, there is that convenience store three blocks down.”
I had forgotten about the convenience store, probably because it’s a place where muggings take place at an average rate of 3-4 times a week.
“Great! Do they sell coffee there?”
“They sure do. Decaf, though, I’m not sure. You would have to check.”
“Listen, I know this may be too much to ask, but could you drive me there on your bike? It’s just that I would have to run there, and I don’t know whether I would make it back here on time.”
He laughs. “I wish I could help you, but I have to be stationed here for the next three hours.”
“Please? Oh God, please? I am so screwed.”
“I’m so sorry, but I can’t. I really wish I could help, I really wish I do, believe me.” I believe him, but then he goes, “Fuck it. Don’t tell anyone. Hop on.”
I get on the bike.
“Hold on to my waist.”
This is all very awkward for me.
“Tighter,” he says. “Otherwise you’ll fall off.”
I swallow and put my arms around Adonis, the messiah.
“Hit it!” I say.
He sure hit the accelerator. I was there in less than 30 seconds.
I burst into to the convenience store. “Decaf! I need decaf!” I say to the cashier.
“I just need it, please. Decaf!”
In Puerto Rico, coffee is located behind the cashier. It’s next to the condoms and cigarettes. She finds a lonely Nescafé decaf bottle on the last shelf, next to the Trojans. She blows on it, and I see dust fly off.
“I hope this will do.”
I slam a Benjamin on the counter, take the coffee, and run out.
Adonis drives me back to the hotel.
“Please don’t tell anyone,” he asks, his eyes imploringly like a puppy’s.
“I won’t say anything, but thank you thank you thank you.” I practically hug him but decide that would be weird. Plus, it’s hard to hug someone wearing a helmet. “Would you like me to make you coffee this morning?”
“It’s quite alright. I mean, if you can, great, if not, don’t worry about. I have to go back to my duties now. You take care.” He rides back to the corner of the street and stations himself there
Two minutes later, the freaking entire Planetary Society comes into the restaurant as one big group. Bill Nye is not there though. Maybe he’s like me, not a morning person?
“Coffee!” they all say. They move, walk, and talk in unison. It’s a hive consciousness.
“Right!” I disappear into the kitchen.
Brian arrives, bleary eyed. “Ok, how many eggs and toast?”
“Fourteen. Plus bacon.”
He gives me a thumbs up and starts looking for eggs in the stainless-steel refrigerator.
I get to the coffee machine. I ground the coffee beans, I put it in the thingy, and then try to click the thingy into place in the coffee machine. It clicks into the place, but the machine decides to break down. I pressed that godforsaken red button, and no coffee is dripping down.
There’s a grinding noise coming from within it.
“¡Mierda! ¡Mierda! ¡Mierda!”
Brian looks up, with a piece of egg shell dangling from his eyelash like a participle. “What’s up?”
“It just broke on me. This piece of shit is broken.”
“It can’t be. It was working yesterday,” he says gently. Brian is the most even-keeled person I know.
I keep trying everything that can occur to me. Through my psychic senses I know that people NEED THEIR COFFEE, and they’re getting grumpy.
I check to see if the behemoth is plugged. It is. I unplug and plug it again, as if it were the Internet. I try making coffee again. Nothing. I try again: only water drips out.
“Fuck! Fuck! Fuck!”
“Let me help you!” Brian volunteers. The guy is a saint. The cook is not supposed to do anything related to coffee or drinks. He comes over, tries everything that occurs to him. Nothing. He shakes the machine, like a vending machine. Nothing.
Finally, in an uncharacteristic moment, Brian loses it and screams that favorite curse word of us Puerto Ricans when things are going to straight to shit:
Suddenly, the machine whirls into action. Scared by the word, the German machine decides to say Wilkommen, and it starts dripping coffee. Whether the coffee tastes good is now not really my concern, because I have to make fourteen of these.
“Hey, how about the other coffee dripper? Why don’t you make four at the same time instead of two at the time?” Brian asks.
“Because Josian told me it’s broken.”
He stares at me, rolls his eyes, and whispers: “Typical.” He tries the “broken” dripping thing, and it turns out that yes, it’s very very broken.
I start taking coffees out, two at a time. Everyone’s upset with me, and I’m sweating bullets. I am so nervous, that I even let out a quiet but lethal fart in the restaurant. (I would never do that to Brian.) I tell them that the machine is broken, and I can only make two coffees at the time.
And now they get picky.
“I would like mine black! Wait, make that two black coffees!”
“I don’t want an espresso. I just want black regular coffee.”
“I’m lactose intolerant! Do you have Lactaid?”
“I want a cappuccino, but extra foamy!”
“I want a latte, but not too strong. I would prefer if you filled the cup with only one fourth of coffee, and the rest with steamed milk. Did you hear me, only one fourth.”
“I hate milk! I take mine with cream! Do you have cream? Can you heat up the cream?”
And finally, Bill Nye walks in.
“Oh hello Pola! Good morning! Whenever you can, you look very busy, just a decaf, thanks!”
I let out another quit fart. In fact, along with the fart, a bit of pee drizzled out. Tomorrow, I will wear Pampers to work.
I run into the kitchen. I look at Brian, who is munching on grapefruit, cracking an egg, and juggling a bread knife with his left hand.
“They want cappuccinos, lattes, and Lactaid, and cream and regular coffee—”
He blows a raspberry at me. “Ha! You see, if they had trained you to make those drinks, then you would have been set.” He keeps slurping his grapefruit, tranquilly.
“But, oh God! They’re all going to know they’re getting the same thing.”
“Not your fault, mamita. Not your fault. It’s the damn management in this place. They don’t train you appropriately, they can’t expect you to know everything. It’s their fault, not yours. Just make coffees with steamed milk.”
“Someone wanted a regular black coffee, and not espresso. And this is an espresso machine!” I feel some pee dripping down my urethra.
“Pues, se jodieron. They’re getting espresso, y que le den gracias a Dios.”
“Ok.” My underwear is wet, with what, I don’t know, nor do I want to know, nor do I have time to check.
I start making lattes, because that’s all I was trained to do. It’s all I know how to do. I start taking them out one by one, because the kitchen doors have a personal agenda against waiters. Those swinging doors keep attacking us, and we keep spilling drinks, coffee, dessert, our souls.
One by one by one by one.
I forgot that some people wanted black coffee. When I think I’m done, someone says: “And my black coffee?”
“I’m making it right now.” BULLSHIT.
He gives me a dubious look and continues a conversation about the surface tension of water with a female scientist. Obviously, this is how he gets women.
I make him his “black coffee.” I just watered down the espresso. It was a total Americano.
“Here you go,” I say proudly.
And then I see Bill Nye in the corner, reading the paper. SHIT, the decaf.
I run back into the kitchen and look at the Nescafé bottle. I read the directions, which for some reason are in French, and pour the “instant” coffee into the thingy and wait for the coffee to drip down.
It looks like motor oil is coming down the coffee drip thingy. I decide to taste it, because it’s Bill Nye.
It tasted like liquefied salted walnuts with a dash of pigeon poo. I almost vomit. So I empty the coffee cup and throw out the Nescafé decaf, such an aberration.
I am now confronted with a dilemma, which will quickly turn into a moral dilemma. Should I go outside and say, “Dr. Nye, we don’t have decaf?” No, I can’t do that because the night before he had asked for decaf, and I had promised (stupidly) that we would have decaf.
Or…should I not say anything and give him a really milked down espresso? But…he’s Bill Nye the SCIENCE guy; surely, he will be able to notice that there is caffeine in his drink.
FUCK ME. I’m going to have to lie to one of my childhood idols.
How can I disguise the caffeine? I take out the cream and pour it in the stainless milk container. Proper measurements are not of my concern; I just want more cream than milk in there.
Then, I make him a coffee (i.e., espresso) and make sure to only fill one fourth of a cup. Maybe Bill Nye has high blood pressure? Shit, I’ll be responsible for his death.
I decide that one-fourth of espresso is too much and that it might kill him. So I make it one-fifth. The rest, I fill with my impromptu cream+milk mixture. I look at it and decide it looks too white. I pour in a bit more espresso. It looks like I’ve made a design on the foam. It looks like a skull.
I take it out and bring it to him.
“Puerto Rican decaf!” I scream at him. “Let me know how you like it, ok?”
And before he has a chance to respond, I run back into the kitchen.
In all that time, Brian has somehow whipped up fourteen eggs, fourteen sides of bacon, and fourteen brioches. The boy is a genius. I start taking the food out, one by one by one.
Bill Nye approaches the bar with his coffee, and I further wet my underwear. I wonder if he can smell my urine, because I sure can smell it.
“This is…” He tastes it again. Oh shit, he noticed the caffeine. I knew it.
He sips a little more and smacks his lips. “Amazing! This is amazing! This is Puerto Rican coffee?”
I let out a bit of a silent fart. “Yes, it’s Puerto Rican coffee, and I’m so glad you liked it.”
They all eat, they all drink their coffees, and they all leave promptly at 8:30 a.m. for the Arecibo radio telescope, at which point, I run to the bathroom and explode in diarrhea.