I just assumed the owner of Lalita Java cafe across the street from my old apartment in the East Village was having a slow day. She felt like using up the last piece of scrap paper with a questionable sense of humor and old dried up felt-tip marker she found in her pen jar under the counter.
"Well," I thought, "Every barista is entitled to her sense of what's funny..."
Some make signs for the bathroom (Though we are not suggesting that your hands can be in any way as dirty as the Bush Administration's, please wash them before returning to work) or for the tip jar (karma jar). Seattle-based baristas have a bent towards espresso-dripped signs atop the latte foam (fern leaves, shamrocks, anarchy symbols).
So I ignored the sign, merrily plugged in, and got online.
Half an hour later I looked up to see the owner lady standing in the doorway, staring at me and my computer, whose white cord was rebelliously snaking its way down to the outlet.
"That costs a dollar fifty an hour," owner lady said.
"I thought that was a joke," I offered.
Owner lady's gaze hardened behind her librarian-meets-indie-rocker eyeglasses, "NO. IT'S NOT A JOKE."
Sheesh, who peed in your Grape Nuts?
I paused and countered with the all-time classic comeback of one who is honestly stumped.
Though ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME, LADY? would have been appropriate, too.
I turned back to my laptop and ignored her.
I heard her say something to the boy behind the counter, probably something about making sure the chick in the back didn't leave without paying her fraction of the electricity coursing from the wall.
I gathered my things to leave, irritated beyond all bounds of reason. I wondered why I was so outraged SINCE IT WASN'T THE MONEY.
I will throw down for goods and services. I possess the sterling etiquette of a former waitress and bartender. But that devious little piece of paper pushed me right over the edge and I wished only that I had 150 pennies in my bag.