I follow a twenty-something woman with a messy ponytail and rock tee-shirt into the air-conditioned coffee shop.

A tall Latino man in a Coffee Bean baseball cap waits for her behind the register.

“Good morning,” he says with a smile. “How may I help you?”

Her face is expressionless as she keeps her eyes down. She scans the multitude of apps on the screen of her sherbet colored iPhone.

“Iced blended,” she says. A double-click with her agile thumb launches an app.

“What size would you like,” he asks.

“Regular,” she says, annoyed. Her mouth is angry. “Put some whipped cream on top.”

The tall register man leans closer. What did she say?

“I’m sorry. Did you say you wanted whipped cream on that iced blended?”

“Yeah,” she says.

He keys in her order and repeats it back. She flashes him her frequent customer app and keeps her eyes down. Maybe she’s playing a game of let’s-see-if-I-can-ice-this-guy-out-of-existence.

She tosses her phone into her purse, almost triumphant. She has passed the point of required verbal communication.

She pulls a Bank of America card from her wallet. She waves it in his general direction, but doesn’t bother to raise her eyes to him. She doesn’t take the time to look him in the eye to see the man—a son, a father, a brother—helping her.

She misses that moment when the register man’s eyes go dim as she has reduced him to a nonentity. She wouldn’t know anything about this man and the way he holds his head, or moves his glasses up to the bridge of his nose when nervous, because she is looking at her phone. He slides the card through the register’s reader and hands it back to her.

“Would you like your receipt?” he says. He holds up the slip of register paper for her to take, but she is already gone.


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Food Woolf Written by:

Brooke Burton is an Los Angeles-based restaurant professional and hospitality expert. She is a freelance food writer, speaker, and co-author of The Food Blog Code of Ethics.


  1. […] may be crushed, but they can not be destroyed. Egos may expand and grow too big. Big ego can be like gasoline: used the wrong way it can burn relationships and enterprises down to the […]

  2. January 10

    What a beautifully told story – and a great reminder that we’re all way too involved with our gadgets.

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