Doug asked the the girl with the black apron behind the counter for a long black to go, no sugar.
"That's three fifty," she said.
He already knew that, and handed her the correct change. She scurried off to the bean grinder. The cafe wasn't really very busy at this time of day; the breakfast crowd had gone, and morning tea was still an hour or two away. The middle aged couple in the corner looked like they were talking about mortgages, divorce, haemmoroids, or an equally painful subject.
The girl worked the espresso machine. The sounds of hissing and clunking were ominous. Doug wondered if espresso machines ever exploded, scalding and maiming barristas and customers. The girl said, loudly over the noise, "It's almost ready! How many sugars would you like?"
"No sugar, thanks."
A bit more clanging and some wiping. Suddenly aware that he was being watched, Doug turned to find two women waiting behind him, who didn't look like they wanted to wait. The serious couple was leaving. Doug turned back around in time to see the girl walk over from the work bench to the serving counter. She handed him a coffee and two packets of sugar.
Doug said, "Thanks," took the coffee - left the sugar - and walked straight out of the cafe. He shook his head and wondered what was going on in his world. Logically, the problem lay either with others, or within himself. Were others consistently becoming increasing incompetetent and less able to understand him? Alternatively: had Doug himself developed a speech problem of some kind? He considered whether it was plausable that he had developed an involuntary Freudian slip that he was himself deaf to; in that he now only thought he asked for no sugar, but was requesting sugar nonetheless.
Despite the fact that he was almost seventy - and must by now be leaning a little toward senility - he still tended to believe he was a victim of the incompetence of others, rahter than his own deficiencies. This was based on his own assessment of the balance of probabilities to be sure; but he had little else to work with.Why is it so hard to get a long black with no sugar, anyway?
Doug stopped on the footpath to admire an old but well maintained Honda motorcyle. He gingerly sipped the coffee, careful not to burn his tongue. Revolted, he spat the milky liquid into the gutter, barely missing the nice old bike. White coffee! White coffee?