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.