A tall order

A trying tale of consumer choice made difficult

“Hello, there. My name is Nadine Prinnet, and on behalf of myself and the entire company I’d like to say how excited we are to be working with you on this project.”

“Thanks. Pleased to meet you.”

“I realize that this is an important purchase to you, and I want you to know I’m going to do everything to ensure that you make a choice that’s tailored to all your needs. Why don’t you tell me a little about yourself, about your life, your passions.”

“Well, my name’s Rodney Trentt. I’m a junior in college, majoring in accounting. Ummm, I was thinking of doing psych for a while, but I’m convinced now that accounting’s the right choice. I was born in Ohio, but I feel like Alaska’s my home. And my hobbies include stamp collecting and karaoke. I guess that’s it.”

“Mmmm . . . I see, I see. Wonderful. That gives us a lot to start with. Now, why don’t you tell me what you’re looking for from your coffee drink purchase.”

“Well, I was thinking I’d get a tall, skinny hazelnut cappuccino with extra . . . um, why are you scrunching your face up like that?”

“Oh, Rodney. May I call you Rodney? As your official Calooga Brothers coffee drink consultant, I’m obligated to advise against such a hasty choice. Before you dive head first into this coffee decision, I’d like you to think hard about the multitude of issues confronting you. Take a moment to ask yourself, ‘What role do I see this coffee drink playing in my life? What do I want this coffee drink to say about me? Does a cappuccino really have the complexity to complement the full, richly human spectrum of hopes, dreams and fears which compose Rodney Trentt?’ Can you honestly tell me you’ve faced those issues?”

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“Well, gosh. I guess not, but—”

“We at Calooga Brothers want to do our best to help you, Rodney, but you have to work with us. Our grind technician, Suzie, is eager to grind your beans, but how can she even begin before she understands the traumas and triumphs that have shaped your soul? How can Roberto, our foam engineer, be expected to know whether to give you dry foam, arid foam, moist foam, sparkling foam, glistening foam, effervescent foam, cumulus foam or any of the other 90 varieties before he’s studied the results of our extensive battery of psychological assessments? Do you expect him to just make an arbitrary foam decision? Do you?”

“Maybe I ought to come back. There are about 15 people waiting behind me in line.”

“They’ll get their turn, Rodney, but now I’m concerned with you. The real you. Tell me, what sort of games did you play as a child?”

“Um, sometimes I would move the cushions around on our sofa and pretend it was a pirate ship.”

“Yes. Yes! YES! I see it now. You need a coffee drink that will express your true pirate self, Rodney, the wild and reckless buccaneer within!”

“I do?”

“Of course you do. I have a vision, Rodney, of a fine blend of Caribbean beans grown by the coast and roasted to ebony perfection, ground with rapturous abandon and then washed through with pure Pacific Ocean seawater. To this briny brew we shall add the gently steamed milk teased forth from the udders of the endangered sea cow, and luxuriously flavored with the essences of jasmine, rum and ground oyster shell.”

“Oyster shell?”

“Of course. The rich elixir shall be served to you in a heavy tankard carved from ancient driftwood, and Renata, our finest foam calligrapher, shall top it off with the immortal words of the poet Thomas Traherne written in the most intricate Gothic script: ‘You never enjoy the world aright, ‘till the sea itself floweth in your veins.’”

“Golly. Can’t I just get, like, a normal cup of coffee?”

“And destroy the dream of individualism that made this country great? Rodney, I don’t think you realize what’s at stake here. Clothes, movies, cars, food, every element of our culture is designed by heartless committees and marketed to the faceless masses. Only by drinking ever more complex coffee drinks can we fend off the forces of stagnation and decay. I see a spark of divine madness inside you, Rodney, a pirate waiting to get out. But only you can set him free. What are you going to tell that pirate, Rodney? Are you going to tell him ‘No,’ or ‘Aye?’”

“Um. Aye?”

“Excellent. That will be $78.54, and you can pick up your order at the counter in approximately 47 minutes.”