By BEN R. WILLIAMS
About ten years ago, I worked at a coffee shop just outside of Roanoke.
In a lot of respects (the pay not being one of them) this was a great job. I made a number of wonderful friends. I learned how to make all kinds of fancy coffee drinks, and I also learned why fancy coffee drinks taste so delicious (the secret: if you pour enough sugar and half-and-half into anything, it’s going to taste pretty good). I got to work as a short-order cook during the lunch rush, and I became fairly skilled at it. I also got all the free espresso I could drink, and it’s amazing that my heart didn’t explode at some point during the eight months I worked there.
Coffee shops draw an eclectic crowd, and I got to meet some fantastic people while I was working there. There was Mr. Fitz, an older gentleman who had lived a fascinating life and always had a good story or some wisdom to share. He gave me an autographed copy of a book he had compiled and edited about WW2-era comic strips.
I also met the late Adrian Cronauer, who was famously portrayed by Robin Williams in the film “Good Morning Vietnam.” He was a nice man, and I still have his business card somewhere.
There was also a gentleman who trained service dogs, and he always brought a dog to the coffee shop with him. When he bought a coffee, he would go sit down, place his credit card on the table, and then the dog would take the card in its mouth and bring it to the counter. No matter what’s happened to you on a given day, doing a financial transaction with a dog is going to be your highlight.
Of course, there were a few regulars who weren’t quite so awesome. I particularly despised Couch Guy, a trench coat-clad nerd who came in every day, sat on the couch, played on his laptop, never bought anything, and once made a comment about a staff member’s weight in spite of the fact that he was built like Marlon Brando after he’d discovered the joys of ham.
However, the worst regular by a country mile was Frappy Lady.
I will preface this by saying that while coffee shops draw a wide-ranging clientele, they tend to draw affluent people, because affluent people can afford to spend eight dollars on a cup of sugar and half-and-half every single morning. And among the affluent people who attend coffee shops, there is a certain percentage of affluent people who are the worst people you will ever have to deal with in your life.
These are people who have never been told “no” before. These are people who treat everyone in the service industry like subhuman scum. These are people who will look at you with a straight face and tell you that you ruined their morning because you’re out of sesame seed bagels (that actually happened to me, and it took everything in my power not to tell the lady that I’d had worse setbacks befall me before I had fully climbed out of bed that morning).
Frappy Lady was every negative characteristic of a rich, uptight, condescending person rolled into one package. When we saw her BMW pull up outside, we played rock-paper-scissors to see who would be stuck serving her. Before I started working at the coffee shop, she had apparently started a screaming match with my manager. She was never in a good mood, and her only apparent joy was to take out her unfocused aggression on the working class.
Frappy Lady got her name because she liked to order frappés, which are not particularly easy to make, and she pronounced the word “frappy.” No matter how we made her frappy, it was never good enough. Nothing could appease Frappy Lady, and she was not shy about letting us know.
Shortly after I left the coffee shop, my dear friend Bentley began working there, and it didn’t take long for Frappy Lady to get on his bad side. After a few months of taking her abuse, he was ready to settle her hash. All he needed was a window.
Before long, that window presented itself. One morning, Frappy Lady parked her BMW in the fire lane in front of the coffee shop, then walked next door to the grocery store.
Bentley, being conscious of the danger this situation would present should a fire break out in the coffee shop, immediately called the police to report the violation.
About two minutes later, a police officer arrived and began writing Frappy Lady’s ticket. Just as he slid the ticket under her windshield, Frappy Lady raced out of the grocery store in a rage.
Bentley said he couldn’t make out what she was saying to the officer, but she was clearly very angry and animated. After a couple of minutes, the officer stepped inside the coffee shop and walked up to the counter. Bentley bade him a good morning.
“That lady out there says that you guys moved her car into the fire lane,” the officer said.
Bentley pointed out that no one in the coffee shop – and, presumably, no one except Frappy Lady – had the key to her car, and besides, why on Earth would they do such a thing?
“Well,” the officer said, “she says you guys hate her, so you moved her car to get her in trouble.”
“Oh, we hate her all right,” Bentley said. “She’s a terrible person. But we didn’t move her car.”
The officer nodded, then stepped outside, gave Frappy Lady her ticket, and departed.
To my knowledge, no one at the coffee shop ever saw Frappy Lady again.