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.


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.


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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