I was out and about at lunchtime today. I went up and checked my mailbox; some non-critical bank thing; and walked back a different way.

On the way back, I passed a smoothie place. It’s a west coast brand, I guess; I’ve never seen one back east though they are all over the place out here. There’s a coffee chain or two that might have more stores per block than this brand; these smoothies are well represented, though.

I used to patronize this chain on a regular basis just before and right after we moved to the bay area. There was an outlet near the headquarters of the Red Menace and I would go get one from time to time for a while thereafter. I hadn’t had one, though, since the time we had moved back east.

I was thirsty, though.

It’s been hot here. I have not idea of what the temperature has been. I’m a wimp when it comes to the temperature, though; I like it cool to cold.

I stopped in to the smoothie place. Some random employee said hello to me as I came in. I was so shocked it took me some time to reply.

It had been so long since I had been in one of these places that I had no idea what to order.

I stood in back and figured it out. Some kind of berry thing. I would choose ‘Energy’ as my free special power boost. I got in line and in no time was standing at the cashier. This person took my order very professionally and politely.

I handed over my money and they asked me for my name. I had forgotten that; it had always seemed intrusive being asked for my name at a smoothie joint. But, okay. Ralphie.

The order comes off a printer in the back. Someone at the head of the line gets a slip of paper from the printer and makes a smoothie. They start with a plastic mixer container and put in a scoop of base something, a scoop of fruit something, and a scoop of boost. They take the mixture off to a bank of mixer bases. They find an open one and go use it. When their smoothie is finished, they deliver it to the last person in the process. This person takes the smoothie, reads the slip of paper (cleverly stuck to the mixing bowl with condensation) and compares it with the finished product, pours the smoothie into a cup, calls the recipient’s name, and delivers the finished product.

I stood for some time watching the person doing this job while I waited for my smoothie. The prep area was a bustle of activity with just the cashier and the counterperson not moving around the kitchen quickly as part of their normal routine.

Every few seconds, the young counterperson would get handed a smoothie. He’d announce the name of the recipient while reading the order on the container. He’d smoothly select a cup and pour the right amount of the smoothie into the cup at one go. He’d then look up and sincerely greet the customer by name and wish them a good afternoon. This young man was good at his job and clearly enjoyed it. There was a rush, though, so it was all business.

After some time, I was called. The counterman poured the smoothie and then stopped, considered the cup. Then, he yelled.

“Perfect smoothie!”

Everything stopped. There was momentary silence.

As one, everyone in the kitchen yelled back.

“Perfect smoothie!”

Everything started again. The kitchen was a bustle of activity, as though nothing had happened.

The man handed me my smoothie and smiled. He wished me a good afternoon.