The following took place in a hotel in Chennai, India but is illustrative of many conversations I have had with hotel staff here.
At the breakfast buffet, I lift the coffee pot and feel that it is empty. I am annoyed because after a long night with the wakey-wakey tag team of Millar and Xanthe, I really need a coffee. Right now.
I take the coffee pot to the nearest waiter and say “this is empty”.
“You want coffee?” he asks
“Yes, yes I want coffee please”
“I’ll bring coffee to you” and he motions to my table where my children are destroying chocolate croissants.
Remembering the tendency of the staff here to serve black coffee to the brim of the cup, I say “I need milk too, please”.
The waiter points to the jug of milk next to the ceral “there is the milk”
“No. Milk in my coffee please” I attempt to clarify without realising that this may have sounded like a request for no milk in my coffee.
He nods and smiles and walks away with the coffee pot.
I return to my chocolate and pastry covered children and try to get them to sit and eat nicely while I await my much needed caffeine.
After a rather lengthy wait, the waiter brings a cup, filled to the brim with black coffee.
“I need milk, please” I say, holding up my thumb and forefinger to indicate how much milk I would like.
“Sorry ma’m” he says and takes the coffee away.
He returns with a cup half full of milk. No coffee. I wonder at this point if he is actually taking the piss.
I let out an exasperated sigh and say in my clearest voice. “No, this is not right. I just want a coffee, with milk in it please. Same cup. White coffee. Coffee. With milk. Please”
“Yes ma’m” he looks very confused and takes the milk away.
The waiter returns with a tray. On the tray is a cup filled to the brim with black coffee. Next to the cup is a little jug full of steaming hot milk.
I take the cup and tell the waiter to take the milk away. I have been at breakfast for almost an hour and have not yet had a coffee, and I am feeling less inclined towards politeness now, but manage to hold back a scream of frustration.
I take my cup of coffee to the cereal bar, pour a third of it into an empty bowl and top up the cup with the cold milk from the jug. I like my coffee at a temperature that I can drink straight away.
Returning to my table with my coffee, I manage to take two sips before Millar starts whining about being bored and wanting to go and play. Xanthe is running around the restaurant sticking her finger into power outlets.
I take one last sip of my coffee, rescue my daughter from electrocution and herd my children out to the playground.
I just wanted the coffee pot to be filled up so I could make my own damn coffee! Why? why must it be like this?
I imagine the waiter clearing the table after we are gone and noticing my cup of coffee still two thirds full. I imagine him shaking his head and then telling the other waiters about the crazy lady that demands her coffee a certain way, keeps changing her mind and then doesn’t even drink it.
I keep this amusing thought in my head as I take the kids back upstairs to our apartment. I boil the jug and make my own coffee. Just how I like it.