Jackson Hole Coffee Etiquette
By Tim Sandlin // Illustrations by birgitta sif
ON A BEAUTIFUL spring afternoon Delores and I lounged about our favorite independent coffee shop, enjoying our latte and chai, inventing tales based on the lives of the tourists in line—“that one has a YouTube podcast on macramé window coverings. You can tell just by looking at her”—when a woman in ski boots and what in my youth was called a car coat crashed through the door with the word, “Idiot.”
I assume she was talking to someone outside, but who knows? She wore enough turquoise to win the Georgia O’Keeffe lookalike contest and carried a brown pug in a sling, like the Nez Perce used for babies back in fur-trading times.
The woman charged over to the only empty table and slapped down her cellphone before she went to stand in line. This is the worst social blunder one can commit in Wyoming, right up there with posthole walking on a cross-country ski track.
The guy at the head of the line, who’d just gotten his drink, looked at the phone and sighed, no doubt wishing he was from New York or Paris, any place where it would be normal to raise a stink. Instead, he went outside to sit on the curb.
Delores nodded at the phone on the empty table. “In Singapore that’s called Kiasu. It’s a trait they admire.”
“Cheating is admired?”
“Getting a competitive edge is good no matter how you do it. Women carry packets of tissues to stake out a table in the food court before they order.”
“That would get your tissues blown on and tossed here. I’m surprised no one has taken her phone to the front and turned it into the lost and found.”
“Wyomingites are too aloof to mess with someone else’s stuff. That phone could sit there three days and no one would touch it.”
By then Angry Woman had worked her way to the head of the line where she took the pug out of his sling and plopped him on the counter where he commenced to snuffling up the pastry samples.
The woman more or less shouted, “Fluff Puff, remember your gluten intolerance.”
Kimberly Sue Matson was working the counter. Kimberly Sue has a PhD from Duke in kinesiology. Like so many others, she came to Jackson to ski and hasn’t quite left.
Kimberly moved the samples plate back to her work shelf. “It’s not dog food either.”
“You don’t have to snap.”
The woman oozed a huge sigh and said, “Deal with it,” which is my least favorite saying, except maybe, “If I don’t do it somebody else will.” We all have our peeves.
The woman went on before Kimberly could snap out a pithy comeback. “Just make me a half caff, hazelnut, triple shot, no foam, extra hot cappuccino.”
Kimberly might have fixed the concoction for a polite customer. For this woman doing her best Sean Penn imitation—no way.
“I’m sorry, ma’am, but we have a four-adjective policy. I’m not allowed to do five. You’ll have to drop one demand.”
The woman’s face changed color. Imagine moving from the top half of a tequila sunrise to the bottom half. “What are you, stupid? You’re paid minimum wage to give me what I ask for.”
Which isn’t true, by the way. Jackson Hole’s baristas are the top of the service industry pecking order.
To her credit, Kimberly didn’t play the Duke doctorate card. “I can put together any four-adjective drink your little heart desires.”
“This is why you work in an apron and I work in Hermès.”
“Lady, order or move along.”
“Okay. A pumpkin Frappuccino. Is that simple enough
“This isn’t Starbucks. We don’t Frap.”
The pug lifted his squatty back leg and tinkled on the cookie display.
The woman exploded at Kimberly. “Now, look what you’ve done.”
“I didn’t pee on the counter.”
“You made Fluff Puff nervous. He has an irritable urethra. He loses control when people criticize me.”
Delores had had enough. She snatched the phone off the empty table and strode to the counter.
“Somebody lost their phone, Kimberly. Can I keep it?”
The woman snarled. “You know very well that’s mine. I left it to claim my rightful table.”
“We don’t do that in Wyoming. You must be from Boston.”
That one hit home. The woman snapped from self-righteous rage to self-righteous self-pity. “I’ll have you know, I’m a local.”
“No, you’re not,” Kimberly said. “You’re a second home owner.”
The coffee shop hushed. The only sound was the high wheeze from Fluff Puff’s lungs.
Kimberly went for the kill. “You come six weeks in the summer and one in winter and think you own the valley.”
The woman sucked back tears. “I deserve to get my way. I contribute to 122 nonprofits. I sit on three boards. I compost regularly.”
I decided it was time to get involved. I moved into the center of the action and said, “Composting is a credit to your species.”
She looked at me gratefully. “Thank you, kind sir.”
“People think because you’re filthy rich you don’t have feelings.” I tutted sympathetically. “I’d bet anything you have feelings.”
The woman sniffed. “I have more feelings than most upper middle-class career women.”
I put my arm around her shoulders. “Why don’t you step over here and tell me about yourself. Kimberly, would you pour this old dear a cup of black coffee?”
The woman made a sound similar to a hedge fund baby snorting white powder off the back of a toilet. “Can I have room for cream?”
Kimberly said, “Not till she cleans up the dog pee.”
Fluff Puff sniffed my hand on the woman’s shoulder.
He bit me.