May all your humiliations be discrete.

I have a nasty habit upon observing small or inadvertent mistakes, whether they be by friends or family, of amplifying these opportunities for ridicule, berating the poor soul with them and then storing them away for later use, like in a speech at a wedding. I think that it’s a hyperactive defence mechanism that grew out of being bullied at school, but my psychologist says that I’m just an arsehole. Either way, it means that I am generally very careful not to make too many howlers, lest they be given similar treatment.


Naturally, even being very careful is not enough to ensure that you never stuff up and there’s some kind of karmic influence that ensures that when you do, your mates will be there to witness it. Our upcoming trip to the Formula 1 Grand Prix has once again re-ignited the memory of one of my mates’ favourite Dave from Albury stupid moments, and I expect to hear about it plenty more times while we’re at the track. The reason that this particular faux pas is so loved by my friends is that it has so many opportunities to be bought up, because it’s not actually about the Grand Prix, it just happened there. The secret, nuclear shame bomb that my friends hold the launch codes to is actually all about coffee.

In the country town where I grew up there were three kinds of coffee available, International Roast, Nescafe, or, if you were lucky, Moccona. Trips to Sydney or Brisbane would provide the opportunity for a Cappuccino, usually from a Donut shop, but for the most part coffee was seen as a third rate option, compared to a nice pot of tea. Moving to Albury, with some decent cafés and a local coffee roaster, changed that perception.

Coffee quickly became our affordable luxury of choice, with trips to Zoi Espresso a regular part of our routine. We even took a class there one Saturday afternoon, sampling different varieties and styles of coffee. I moved from cappuccino to flat white, flat white to latte, latte to piccolo latte and then from there to the short macchiato. It was here that the foundation for my humiliation was laid.

Ordering a short macchiato from a new barista at Zoi one morning I was presented a drink without the wisp of foamed milk on top that I was expecting. Noticing my puzzled expression the lass explained that she’d been working in cafes in Melbourne recently, and this was how they all insisted their macchiatos be done, foam on top was “Sydney style”. I filed away this piece of information, certain that it would be useful at some stage.

Sadly for me, the point at which I decided this information would be helpful was standing in a queue at a coffee tent, in front of my mates, at the Melbourne Grand Prix.

I should have known that the bored looking girl behind the counter wasn’t particularly concerned with the detail of how I wanted my coffee. I should have confined my desire for caffeine to items on the menu. I should have picked a different time, place and subject to exhibit the breadth of my knowledge. But I didn’t.

As I approached the counter I uttered the words that haunt me to this day.

“Short Macchiato please, Sydney style”

The girl gave me a look with not a single hint of comprehension, and asked me to explain myself. This elicited howls of laughter from my companions and left me embarrassingly mumbling about foam, while the person behind the counter preparing the coffee shook his head and shot me a look that said “wanker” loud and clear.

Perhaps if I had been less paranoid about ever making mistakes in my friends’ presence, or maybe just been a little nicer to them, this incident would have passed without much comment. Instead, it has become their retort of choice whenever warmed beverages are purchased, or consumed, or mentioned, or if we pass near an establishment that sells them, for close to ten years now. Years of “Do you want that ‘Sydney style’ Dave?” have left me a nervous wreck around coffee shops and have meant that I’ve abandoned the macchiato completely.

I can at least say that this has taught me an important lesson in life. Always make your friends go first.

17 thoughts on “May all your humiliations be discrete.

  1. Great story Dave. Sounds to me like the chick at Zoi Espresso cocked up, didn’t want to fix it and made up a brilliant lie on the spot. I can only assume she’s moved onto banking or politics now.

  2. So now’s probably not the best time to bring up that story about how you were looking for the little men zooming down the Harbour Bridge on hessian sacks after lighting the fireworks on New Year’s Eve then huh sweetie?

  3. Ahem, Dave… just between you and me… ‘discreet’ or ‘discrete’?

    Personally, I don’t mind a humiliation that’s discrete from my usual socialising, because then the shame burns on only in my memory, not in the memories of my friends. I don’t do things discreetly, so any chance of a discreet humiliation is non-existent.

  4. Can your psychologist’s character judgement be trusted, Dave?

    Secondly, I was impressed by your domestic coffee bliss. That goes for you too, Mrs Dave.

  5. I’d be there to take you up on that, Dave, but for the last couple of months I’ve been held captive in the tentacles of some viscious infection that’s left me unable to drive, let alone walk. My personal dragon slayer is busy hacking through the last of those pesky tentacles and the roadmap indicates a few more weeks before completion.

    Mind you, smelling roses aint that bad a past-time after all.

  6. A very well written piece, as usual Dave. And a long one – 11 paragraphs in all. You got the intrgue going and kept it going. I was at the edge of my chair thinking, what is it? What is it about his past that Dave’s about to reveal here. What can we use against him when & if we ever get to Milawa again?

    And then it’s revealed – it’s just a fckn coffee ordering faux pas !!!

    Talk about anti-climax. You’ve ruined my day.

  7. “Sydney Style” – that phrase could be used in so many different ways.

    I enjoyed your story. I think it now safe to go back to drinking macchiatos. Just make sure you don’t progress to ” half double decaffeinated half-caf, with a twist of lemon.”

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s