Our First-Ever Baristas Story Contest Winners

Katie Mo Goff (Aubrey) can't believe all this stuff happens to you, either.

Don’t forget: new episodes begin August 1! (Get caught up here!)

Thanks to everyone who submitted stories for our first-ever public story contest.  We know we’re not the only ones who get to see cafe craziness on a daily basis, and your anecdotes have proven us right.

Some of your stories made us laugh.  Some made us cringe.  And some of them we probably shouldn’t repeat in polite company.

In the end, we could only select 5 winners (according to our own rules), each of whom will receive a bag o’ Baristas swag at the end of July.  But don’t be surprised if you see quite a few of these stories appear in some variation on an upcoming episode of The Baristas, which returns with all-new episodes on August 1!

(And don’t be surprised if we do this contest again sometime soon, because now we know you’re all living through some truly story-worthy shenanigans every day.)

And now, in the alphabetical order of their contributors, here are our five favorite stories from you.

From Jocelyn Joseph:

During my first few weeks at my new Starbucks location, the customers could not discern my ethnicity. One of my coworkers shared that I am half Lebanese and half Italian, and everyone seemed satisfied with the answer.

One night, a male patron started calling me a terrorist and had to be removed from the premises by the police. Later, as we were cleaning the cafe to close for the night, we found anti-terrorism pamphlets on all of the chairs in the cafe. It was lovely.

From Jessica Kneeland:

I was 18, and had just come back from a semester abroad; I’d spent 6 months in Chile during the last half of my high school senior year. I was a lifelong goody two-shoes in a tiny farm town in upstate New York, who had just wanted to do something Different and Brave and Amazing.

I convinced my guidance counselors I didn’t mind missing my graduation (blasphemy!), gave a power point presentation to my parents explaining how I would raise the money with their help, graduated early, and went off to South America to do Amazing things and live an Amazing life.

Much to EVERYONE’S surprise, I came back with 9 new body-piercings, a half-committed life decision to be a vegetarian, short spiky hair, and a habit of crying all the time. I’ll let you draw your own conclusions about that, but I will take a moment to draw you a picture of my new metal-filled face: previously, my ears had been pierced for earrings, including one cartilage stud that held a tiny fake diamond; however, the girl who stood in front of her parents at the baggage claim had 11 holes JUST IN HER FACE. Three per earlobe, each with different gauges of metal spacers, plus three along my cartilage, all of which now held wide stainless steel hoops.  A steel spike burst through my lower lip, and I had a horseshoe shaped ring inside my mouth, strung through the flesh above my front teeth.

My family had been telling me for weeks since I’d been back that it looked ridiculous and gross, it was a symbol of depression and behavioral changes that worried them, it didn’t seem safe, etc. etc. I wouldn’t listen because, godammit, they just didn’t understand.  It made me look tough, and it damn sure made me feel tough, and if I’d learned nothing else in my travels, it’s that that you can’t let anyone tell you what’s best for you!

I was working at Mulberries at the time, the local little coffee shop around the corner from my house. Opening the shop in the mornings allowed me the time to spend my afternoons and evenings studying my craft of musical theater. One of my regular customers (I only knew her as “Large Extra-Hot Skim Latte”) had come in as usual and was now sitting by the window alone, sipping her drink. My best friend came in to get a bagel and hang out with me for a while (best job ever), and mentioned that she thought the woman by the window was Alec Baldwin’s sister, who lived one town over.

How interesting, I noted to myself. How excellent for me that I’m not the type of person to get star-struck, because that’s immature and would be very embarrassing.

The next week, “Large Extra-Hot Skim Latte” came in as she always did, but was shortly joined by several others. A bustling family, it seemed. Several adults, I noted, were hugging and smiling and she was ushering them all up to the counter and telling them what was good and they were pointing at the baked goods and I was getting them their orders. They eventually all sat down, and I had gone back to my stool to continue my list making (do laundry, get headshots taken, stop crying, wash car…). When I looked up to the entering customer, I realized it was Alec Baldwin.

Alec Baldwin.

My head spun.

I am a very mature 18-year old, I assured myself; he’ll never even notice you’re nervous. Up to this point in my life I had never come into contact with a celebrity of any sort… unless you count the fact that I was personally acquainted with the winning pig at last year’s State Fair.

I smiled and took his order, and as I handed him his drink he said, “Do you know who you look like?”

”Uuummm…I’ve been told several different people…”

“I’m thinking of Scarlett Johansson. Do you know who that is?”

I nod.

“It’s amazing, you look just like her. Really. You could be her sister.”

I thank him, and for a split second I seriously consider telling him that if he happens to know of any movies casting for Scarlett Johansson’s sister, to please let them know I’m interested.

He tipped me 10 dollars, and went over to sit with the bustling group of pleasant adults who were obviously his family. Later, on his way out, he came up to the counter again and politely asked if he could pose a question. I agreed, and he gestured to my lower lip.

“Why do you have that piercing?”

I blushed and mumbled something like “Oh, I actually just got it recently, I don’t even know yet if I’m going to keep it…”

“You should get rid of it.” He replied. “You have such a beautiful face. A girl with such a pretty face shouldn’t have things like that going through it,” and left.

Now, I HAPPENED to take out that piercing the following day. Not because Alec Baldwin told me to (other people can’t tell me what to do, after all!), but because I decided that I no longer liked it. As the summer progressed, I would go on to remove the spacers and let them heal, “lose” the inner-mouth ring, and replace the heavy steel hoops with my sparkly little studs.

Every time I took one out, my relieved family would graciously accept whatever explanation I cared to offer. “I think it was starting to get infected.” “It just kept catching on stuff.” They didn’t care why. All they cared about was that I seemed to be returning to myself again.

I worked at Mulberries until I left for NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts; I heard the coffee shop closed shortly thereafter.  I’ve often looked forward to the day I’m filming on set with Alec Baldwin and I get the chance to remind him of the spiky-haired 18-year old whom he told was beautiful, and to let him know that I indeed took his advice.

From Fletcher Sharp (whom we suspect experienced this in a bar and not a cafe, but hey…):

A friend and I go in, and he finds a table while I go to place the order. While he’s at the table, an attractive girl who’s waiting for her order asks to share our table since the place is busy. After placing our order, I join them to find my friend flirting and gushing. She’s responding positively, but when she learns that I paid for the drinks that we’re waiting on, she starts to take a shine to me, which annoys my buddy. I’m puzzled as to why she’s so overdressed for this place. She explains she’s a dancer.

“In one of the reviews downtown?” I ask.

“No,” she says, “but I’m in the ‘industry.'”

My friend is so smitten that he doesn’t get it; he continues to compliment and fawn over her. He’s interrupted by a passing man in a business suit who stops at the table in front of her and places a hundred dollar bill on the table. Matter of factly, she whips out a pen and writes her number on the bill. The man in the suit grabs it up and leaves. My friend and I look blankly at each other, not quite sure we believe what just happened. She continues with the small talk, and then we see the suit-guy, off in a corner, dail her on his cell phone. She takes the call, says a few words of place and time, and hangs up.

My friend, finally getting it, says, “so that’s how it’s done?”

“Yup,” she says, putting her phone away as the barista announces her order in the distance. And then, in an almost condescendingly flirtatious way, she adds, “you guys take care. Maybe I’ll see you around.”

And off she went.

From Rich Westerfield (who hopes you’re not eating right now):

I’m sure there are a ton of stories out there about awful customer interactions. (Google “murky punch in the dick” for a classic.)

However, the legendary story from our place happens to be about a bowel movement.

A customer came up to the bar and quietly mentioned that the men’s room couldn’t be used and we should take a look.

We did. And we didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.

In one piece was a stool the width and length of a family-sized pork tenderloin. It was enormous, with the head extended into the plumbing and the tail reaching all the way to the bottom of the rim.

And it was basically stuck on the bowl. Repeated flushing didn’t budge it.

What to do?  The staff thought it was hysterical. They were sending “friendly” customers back to look at it. And rather than being grossed out, the customers were awed at the thing’s magnificence.

We debated taking a photo and sending it to Guinness Book of Records alongside a tape measure. But nobody wanted to get near it.

We thought about taking a photo and tweeting it, but we figured that would be in poor taste. So we just described it in a series of tweets, which immediately resulted in requests for photos and some of the most amazing 140-character stool stories ever published.

End of the day, we decided against trying to chop the thing up and instead applied several doses of an organic enzyme drain cleaner, hoping the enzymes would start breaking it down.

Within 36 hours it was flushable.

We have no idea who left it there, but we would like to send that person a plaque.

And, finally, an excerpt from someone who’d probably like us to withhold his name…

I used to work for Enterprise-Rent-A-Car, and a big part of the job was “picking you up”, as well as driving you home.

One day, a young woman in her early 20’s dropped her car off at [my location] and requested a ride home. Not often does a young beautiful woman rent a car or come into the office, so I was especially eager to help. I closed out her file and, without asking where she lived, started driving her home.

As soon as I turned onto [the road], I asked where I could take her and she said [the name of the township]. Now, [this township] is a hike from the office, but I agreed, and I started to take back roads and short cuts as I knew the area well. As we drove, this young lady and I had a nice little conversation. She told me about her vacation to Italy, her family, friends and her dog, and a little chemistry was in the air.

As we entered [her neighborhood], she requested that I stop so she could grab some coffee. I agreed, as I was ahead of schedule and hadn’t been paged once yet by my district manager. We pulled up to [a cafe] and she told me that she would treat me to a coffee because we had a good conversation and she was appreciative of the long ride back to her home.

We walked in and she walked up to the counter to order for the both of us. I am not a coffee drinker, so when she asked me what I wanted, I requested a Coke. She did not like this and told me to try one of their more infamous coffees. After some debate, I agreed, and let her pick out a coffee for me (since she was buying).

As they handed us our coffees, I saw they were in store mugs and not to-go cups. She then heads out this side door where there’s an outside patio and indicates for me to follow her.

I am now internally in debate. I can tell that this woman is enjoying my company and interested, but she does not know that I am engaged.

As we head outside on this side patio area, I take a sip of my strong maple tasting coffee with a hint of nut and try to hide my face of disgust, as the memory of trying one of my dad’s beers at the age of 9 lingers in my thoughts. I give her the bitter beer face while uttering that it’s delicious coffee and complimenting her coffee taste.

As we’re sitting there, I am trying to hide the fact that I am anxious and need to get back to the office, because at this point I now have 6 missed calls from my office and I am days away from getting promoted to running my own branch. My undeveloped life flashes before my eyes and my thoughts run away from me. I have paranoid thoughts of my fiancée leaving me for having coffee with this girl, my promotion is lost because everyone at work is thinking that I slept with this woman (or god knows what) in their rental car, and I can’t get the taste of coffee, reminding me of my first cigar, out of my mouth.

While she is telling me this story about Italy or some shit, I’m just sitting there pretending to listen with all of these thoughts going through my head. I finally lost it and, while she was in mid-sentence, I said, “I’m engaged, this coffee sucks, let’s go!” Puzzled, she became quiet and just said sheepishly, “okay.”

I felt bad, but I didn’t know what else to say or how to recover from this fumble. We got back to the car and she was still shocked, so we drove around in circles for a little bit before she finally started to give me directions. I now have 15 missed calls from my office.

I get to the location where she wants to be dropped off, and she quietly says thank you and starts to open the door. As she leaves, she hands me a piece of paper with her name and phone number on it. As I raced back to the office, puzzled by what just occurred, I called my boss and lied [about where I’d been] and said I would be back soon. He could hear the agitation in my voice and did not question it.

I destroyed the number and never really told my now-wife about it. Since this experience, I have not been back to [that neighborhood] or been inside a coffee shop. There are times you wish to never run into someone again in your life because of something you have said or done. This is one.