With approximately 0.68 pounds of coffee in a scoop in one hand
and a cordless phone in the other, I heard the familiar question:
"What flavor of expresso (sic) are you serving today?"
It was HER.
"Ummm....let me look." I put down the scoop of pungent, oily beans
and walked to where I could see the little sign announcing the day's
"Major Dickason's today." I informed the caller.
"Good! My favorite!" The caller was pleased. "How about lemon-butter
cookies? Do you have any of those in?"
I looked in the pastry case. There were three unopened boxes of
the coveted lemon-butter cookies, a delectable confection that I
often used to nibble on breaks.
"Yes, three boxes." I said.
"Could you put them aside for me please?" the caller inquired.
Hmmm. If I put the cookies aside for this caller, then there
would be none for the other customers. And none for me! But
then again, it was never wise to upset the Quad Lady, otherwise
known as Quadzilla. "Okay. Individually bagged?" I sighed,
already knowing the answer.
"Yes please. I'll be in later to pick them up."
With that, Quadzilla hung up the phone and I returned to weighing
beans. "Later", to Quadzilla, meant "right at closing time" when
the main thing on a coffee shop worker's mind is getting customers
OUT of the store so that we could clean up and count the register
I don't know to this day why this woman acted the way she did. Well,
maybe it had to do with her habit of drinking FOUR quad espressos in
a single sitting. Peet's coffee (the shop I worked at) has very strict
standards for drink-making. Each espresso shot must be precisely measured,
and the grind must be carefully adjusted to account for changes in
humidity throughout the day. When a shot is pulled, it must be exactly one ounce.
(Though we did pull especially long shots for some odd customers who
apparently enjoyed the bitter taste of horribly over-extracted espresso.)
Quadzilla invariably ordered 4 quad espressos. She watched you like
an anal retentive hawk as you pulled her shots, looking for any sign
that she was somehow going to be cheated out of her precious elixir.
When she came in that night, it was about 10:02 and we'd already locked
the doors. She proceeded to bang on them and being the idealistic, fairly new
worker that I was, I let her in, much to the dismay of my co-workers.
"Susan," (Quadzilla's real name) "You know we're actually closed, don't you?"
"Not according to my watch you're not!" she informed me.
Oh. I thought. How far is she going to take this?
"And I want you to make my expresso, dear," she said to me.
"But Susan, I've never made espresso for you!" I reminded her. I had only
recently been granted espresso bar priveleges.
"Yes you have. You make it good. Only you and Jennifer can make my
drinks. Everyone else waters it down."
Nobody had ever watered down Susan's espresso, but there was no arguing with her.
I had certainly never made her a drink before, but there was no arguing with her.
Nervously, I went over to the bar area and began pulling shots. Quadzilla / Susan
stared intently at every move I made.
"The earthquakes are going to be here soon." Quadzilla informed me.
"Earthquakes. Fire and lightning. The end of everything. I heard it on
the AM radio last night."
"Oh! You mean Coast To Coast AM?" I asked, suddenly realizing what she was
talking about. Coast to Coast AM is a show hosted by Art Bell, who
interviews all sorts of wacky people with weird theories. The show played
from midnight to 5 AM (I think) in the area I lived (San Jose) and I guess
it was only natural that someone keen on consuming 16 shots of espresso
in the evenings would have happened upon this show. I personally was
something of an insomniac, and listened to the show for entertainment. The only
side effect of this for me was occasional dreams of alien abductions.
Susan's face brightened. "You listen to that, too?"
This is where my weird, unexpected camraderie with the Quad Lady began.
For some reason, the fact that I listened to the same wacky radio talk show
that she did made her trust me. Unlike my co-workers, I didn't flinch when
she came in from then on. We enthusiastically discussed crop circles, strange
magnetic fields, higher dimensions, and end-times predictions while
I arduously pulled her 16 shots of espresso, which she consumed
at the same time as all the lemon-butter cookies we happened to have in the store.
Now, I'm an atheist and a skeptic and didn't believe the stuff on Coast To
Coast AM for the most part, but discussing it with Susan was a lot of fun for some
reason. She was just so enthused about paranormal phenomena, and so grouchy and
unreasonable when she wasn't talking about such things.
My co-workers used to call me to the espresso bar whenever Susan came in. I became
something of a buffer, I suppose. Interestingly, she eventually stopped coming in
so close to closing, and was generally a lot friendlier. Maybe she was pleased that
someone was actually being nice to her, or perhaps she just built up a tolerance to
all that caffeine and became a lot less paranoid?