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Java Jive

Last week entailed our annual three night run on the local amateur stage, and it was so exhausting that we’ve decided to forgo our usual trenchant analysis and simply run the satirical skit we composed and starred in. It’s premised on a few-weeks old story about the Starbucks coffee shops making it a policy to discuss race relations with its customers, and we already groused about it a few weeks ago in a columned headlined “Black Coffee, White Guilt,” but we’re still annoyed by the company’s self-righteous racial hectoring, even though we’ve never patronized any of its zillions of shops, and it got some laughs on each of our three nights, and we’re plumb puckered, so we’ll go ahead and once again present the script, which was dubbed “Java Jive” in the program.
The scene opens on any old Starbucks, where a CUSTOMER is yawning as he finally takes his place at the counter where a pretty young smiling and chirpy BARISTA greets him:
BARISTA: Good morning and Welcome to Starbucks. I’m Julie, you’re barista.
CUSTOMER:”Barista,” you say? I’m afraid I might not be speaking to the right person, then. I just wanted a cup of coffee.
BARISTA: I’d be glad to help you, sir. What would you like?
CUSTOMER: Just a cup of coffee, please. You know, a cuppa joe, a mugga java, a jolt of the ol’ caffeine.
BARISTA: We have a wide variety, sir. Would you like a tiramisu latte, our signature espresso with hints of cream mascarpone, finished with our whipped cream and a dusting of rich chocolate powder? Or perhaps a caramel flan latte, an espresso with steamed milk and caramel flavors of creamy flan, topped with caramel-infused whipped cream and flan drizzle?
CUSTOMER: I’m not much for flan.
BARISTA: Then how about a tiramisu Frappuccino blended beverage, a coffee blended with creamy mascarpone flavor, milk and ice, topped with whipped cream and a dusting of rich cocoa powder? We also have caffe Americano, caffe latte, caffe mocha …
CUSTOMER: I was really hoping for just a cup of coffee. You know, a plain old hot-water-run-through-coffee-grounds cup of coffee. Do you having anything like that?
BARISTA: But of course, sir. We are a coffee shop, after all. Would you like that blonde roast, caffe mist, our featured dark roast, or our clover-brewed coffee?
CUSTOMER: I’m sorry, but I grew up in an age when we only had three channels on TV and two kinds of blue jeans, and I’m afraid I’m a bit overwhelmed by all these choices. Could you please just sell me a cup of coffee? Just black coffee, no cream or sugar or flan or any of that stuff.
BARISTA: I understand, sir. What size would you like?
CUSTOMER: At this point, I’m going to need the biggest you’ve got.
BARISTA: Very well, sir. that would be our “venti.” And would you care to engage me in a meaningful discussion about the state of race relations in America?
CUSTOMER: Uh, no, not really. Thank you, though.
BARISTA: Are you sure, sir? It comes with the price of the coffee, and it will finally give me a chance to put my multi-cultural studies degree to use. It was very expensive, you know.
CUSTOMER: I’m sure it was. Still, I’ll be quite content with just the cup of coffee, thank you.
BARISTA: It’s our company policy to engage customers in conversation about racial issues. You don’t object to that, do you?
CUSTOMER: Oh, no, not at all. I mean, I’m all for racial equality and social justice and all that jazz, but really, I just wanted a cup of coffee.
BARISTA: Don’t you think it’s time America had a serious conversation about race?
CUSTOMER: America has been having a conversation about race for more than 200 years, not to mention a Civil War and a civil rights movement and all those miniseries and Academy Award acceptance speeches.
BARISTA: But we haven’t had the conversation where whitey agrees to pay reparations.
CUSTOMER: But you’re white, and your whole multi-national corporation, and your one-percenter CEO with this annoying policy, and almost all of your customers, they’re all white.
BARISTA: At least we’re remorseful. I think you need to check your white privilege.
CUSTOMER: White privilege? Lady, I haven’t been laid in months. Find me one brother who will say that. And what the hell good is white privilege if you can’t get a cup of black coffee without two lumps of white guilt?
BARISTA: Sir, your micro-agressions are not appreciated here. Starbucks is a micro-aggression-free space, and if you persist, I’m afraid I’ll be forced to ask the security guards to beat you to a bloody pulp.
CUSTOMER: I’m sorry, I just wanted a cup of coffee, and I’m afraid that a thorough discussion of the past 400 years of American history will make me late for the racial sensitivity training seminar at my office. Besides, I’m not even white.
BARISTA: Really?
CUSTOMER: Yes, I self-identify as a Uygher-American, and as I understand the new rules you’re supposed to regard me however I self-identify.
BARISTA: A Uygher? The Turkish ethnic group of eastern and central Asia?
CUSTOMER: That’s right, but we pronounce it “Uyg-ah,” and you don’t get to stay that.
BARISTA: Please forgive me, sir. Here’s your coffee, and that’ll be six dollars. You know, we don’t get a lot of Uyger-Americans in here.
CUSTOMER: And at these prices, you won’t get a lot more.
(Lights fade.)

— Bud Norman

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One response

  1. “Don’t you think it’s time America had a serious conversation about race?”

    That sentiment does grow tiresome, but we really do need to agree we’ve had that serious conversation just so it can permanently end.

    Or maybe society needs one of these periodically just because the up-and-coming adults don’t remember the last one. And those who do remember don’t agree on whether it was concluded.

    But there is an underlying problem that keeps bringing the issue up, and it needs to be resolved, if only because that’s the kind of disagreement which destroys societies.

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