Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Bad Day at the Coffee Shop

I had a tough day at Panera.

First, when I got there this morning, I discovered that none of the electrical outlets were working. None. I figured they'd gotten tired of us all hanging out there with our laptops and flipped a switch. Oh, well. My battery is good for nearly four hours.

The only problem was that they had cream of chicken with wild rice soup, which is my absolute favorite, especially now that the weather is turning cold. And I knew that my battery would be dying by the time lunchtime rolled around.

I weighed my options, worked a little more, drank some coffee and asked an employee why they'd turned off the electricity. It was news to her, so she went right off to ask the manager. Unbelievably (no pun intended), she came back almost immediately to tell me that he didn't believe her. Told her to go plug something in and see what happened.

So I plugged my laptop in and showed her that nothing happened, but when she returned to the kitchen...nothing happened once again.

It was getting close enough to lunchtime that I thought maybe I could just stick it out long enough to get my soup. But when I walked up to refill my coffee, I inquired of the manager. It was easy to get his attention, because the business was at about 50% of the normal weekday volume. He feigned surprise that the outlets weren't working, swore that they'd never do that intentionally "at least that he knew of", and said he'd look into it.

I got a Diet Pepsi and discovered that the syrup was off. I drank it anyway and went up for a refill, only to discover that the ice machine was empty.

An hour later, when I went up to order my soup, he asked whether they were working now, as if he thought they might have spontaneously regenerated. He seemed surprised when I said no, but I didn't care anymore. I was going to eat my soup and then go home and work there, with full access to electricity.

I ordered my soup.

I paid for my soup.

And then I learned that they were out of my soup.

With ten minutes to spare on my battery, uncertainty about my debit card having been credited and ten minutes left on my laptop battery, I left Panera--and spent the next fifteen minutes waiting to get out of the parking lot because apparently healthy young men had to sit with turn signals blinking for several minutes in an effort to get a parking space ten feet closer to the door.

All in all, it was the worst day I've had at Panera...and that said a lot to me. It said a lot about how nice things usually are at Panera when I go there to work during the day, but it also said a lot about how nice life usually is. Usually, apparently, the conveniences are plentiful and the soup is available and the soda is just right and the road is clear. Sometimes, a day filled with every little obstacle is nothing more than a reminder of just how little they are.

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