Overheard in Portland: The Three Baristas

Coffeehouse Five, Northeast Killingsworth Street | Portland, Oregon

11/13/2013 | 1:30 p.m.

I am at Coffeehouse Five on Northeast Killingsworth Street in Portland, posted up at my favorite corner-of-the-room table (corners are the best spots for inconspicuously surveying what’s happening around you, I’ve found) and writing away happily, when this happens.

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Some commotion kicks up on the opposite side of the café, with a few customers pointing outside. The three hipster twenty-something baristas abandon their duties behind the counter to gather around a west-facing window.

Across the street at an empty storefront connected to a mini-mart, two Asian men are on rickety ladders, hanging a vinyl banner.

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One of the baristas begins to read aloud, his voice unbelieving: “It says … ‘Cascade Expresso’?”

From the second: “Oh, sweet Jesus.”

From the third, reading the banner’s subhead, which advertises an “Asian Plate Special” for $5.99: “What is an ‘Asian plate’? Some kind of drink?”

A quiet panic descends. I surmise that The Three Baristas are pondering their fates. This coffeeshop already seems woefully overstaffed, and that’s before a competing business has decided to hang its shingle a mere crosswalk away.

Then, from the first barista: “Oh, wait. It just says ‘Cascade Express.’ I think it’s a Chinese restaurant. Nevermind.”

Foodservices Industry disaster averted, the baristas disperse.

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