Welcome to Cambodia - specifically Wat Opot; the home of the famous $.38 iced coffee. My niece loved them when I whipped them up in my mom's kitchen while in KS last month. They can be very addictive, especially on a lazy hot afternoon. Just the right mix of coldness and caffeine!
When I go into Phnom Penh, I cannot resist hanging out in one of the expatriate (ex-pat) cafes. Going inside, ordering an overpriced soy latte and settling down in the typical setup, I could be anywhere in the world. I think that's what I love about the cafes - latte aside - you can sit in comfort and read a book or magazine while sipping slowly as the hours tick by and when you walk out the doors, you are suddenly arriving in your adopted country again.
So many have popped up all over the ex-pat area of the city which is great for me because I can change up my routine monthly. While sitting in one such cafe upon my return to Cambodia from the US, I thought about my experience when I visited DC...
While enjoying my old working stomping grounds; I stepped into Caribou Coffee which is next to the building where I used to work. These people are the happiest people on the planet! The mornings I walked to work; thus saving money I would have spent on the bus or metro, I allowed myself to splurge on a speciality coffee, instead of my normal brewed one. Every single morning that I went into the coffee shop, I was greeted by awesome smells, laughter and many times a "What can I get you, sugah or darlin or hon", etc." Even when a male worker said it, it didn't sound creepy, more of like they were greeting their aunt or daughter. Those employees knew how to give their customers a great start to an otherwise normal day; even when the line was out the door.
When I walked in after 2 years of being away; I was not to be disappointed. The happy man behind the counter gladly took my order (small double shot soy latte) and then commented "Money is so dirty"; which I replied "Mine specifically, or all money?" He assured me that he meant money in general as I moved along the counter to the pick up area. While waiting, I went to the bathroom and arrived back at the counter in time to see a woman pick up the only cup sitting on the counter. Knowing I had ordered first, I startled her by casually asked if that was possibly my coffee? She laughed and said, "Oh I don't know"…she had at that time, opened the lid and was going to pour cream into it. The barista looked at us and said that the lady had my coffee, but to go ahead and drink it and she will make me another one. I had a weird feeling from the lady as she asked what she was drinking and when I told her she commented "Wow, that's a good coffee for only 1 dollar fifty (the price she paid for the small brewed coffee that she had ordered - in contrast to my $4.00 over-priced-but-worth-it drink).
She quickly left the shop and I mentioned to the barista that I had a feeling that she did it on purpose. For the first time, I saw one of the staff at this coffee shop stop smiling! She became angry and said that she thought that as well! The guy who took her order was not happy either since he had poured the woman a coffee and had sat it on the counter (in full view) when she paid for it. (To those of you who do not know the ins and outs of coffee shops…the barista makes your speciality coffee - basically any coffee with more than 2 words - and the cashier gives you regular no-frills brewed coffee). The woman who stole my coffee was a mature woman in full business dress, a woman who looked like she has been around a coffee shop or two, if you know what I mean. Plus, she didn't seemed shocked when she opened her "brewed coffee" and saw it's tan creamy color instead of the black coffee she supposedly ordered. As the 2 people behind the counter continue to discuss what happened, I sat down to enjoy my freshly prepared coffee and started to chuckle at the absurdity of what had happened.
Here's a woman who by all means, appears to be able to afford an expensive coffee. Was this her way of 'living on the edge'? One step closer to getting caught with her hands in the…er…coffee pot? How must it feel for her to get away with her white collar caper? The rush of excitement combined with the cold DC air as she takes her first sip of MY hot speciality coffee. Did she secretly add another notch to her briefcase? Maybe she stacks the cups in her office (under the desk or in a file cabinet) in homage to her sneakiness or does she desperately fall to her knees and rip the cup to shreds in the fancy office bathroom as she quietly vows to never steal again?
I for one will never know.