My swollen feet mushroomed over my Crocs. I had been stationed behind my register in the same upright and alert position for nearly 10 hours, where I had placed a deluge of customized orders:
“Southwest scramble with tofu and vegan cheese. No toast. Sub extra fruit.”
“Turmeric latte. No agave. Add black pepper.”
“Green Juice with kale, cucumber, celery, cayenne, and love.”
I thought I had experienced it all. And, yet, there she stood in her Namaste tank top and Birkenstocks. Her sterling silver tree necklace burned with a mighty fire of self-assuredness.
“Excuse me?” I asked. “What did you say?”
“Yes, with love,” she said — her lips clenched tight so that the statement came out as an exasperated demand.
After cashiering at a vegan restaurant in Phoenix for several months, I had arrived at two conclusions about the industry:
1. Vegans are insufferable.
2. Vegans are oblivious to their insufferableness.
Based on my burgeoning understanding of these two doctrines, I suspected that what this customer wanted in her freshly squeezed kale, cucumber, celery, cayenne juice was literal love sprinkled on top. My suspicions were confirmed when, after asking if she might be mistaken and what she really wanted was the supplement E3Live which contains what’s called a “love molecule,” she sighed and snipped:
“No, I want the intention of love.”
To be fair, this particular restaurant pushes food that’s good for you, your chakra, and the Earth — with similar statements stenciled on the doors and windows.
Several times a shift I had to choke back a laugh at what customers expected me to do for them. Only once did I actually snicker when a customer stated that she would like:
“A kale salad with no kale.”
I am no wimp when it comes to offering customer service. During a previous gig as a cashier at a cafe near Tucson, I thought I had experienced all the possible kinds of customers and their demands: cyclists, hunters, biker gang members, and young couples under the impression they are in love.
But a vegan restaurant attracts a specific brand of insufferable clientele. Particularly irksome are the millennial vegans, such as the “just blew in from Coachella” type or, my personal favorite, the Urban Outfitters mountain man who sports either an unkempt beard or the notoriously dreadful man bun. If you rifled through his backpack, I’m sure you’d find a well worn copy of On the Road.
To be clear, I don’t equate veganism to a simplistic way of thinking. I know that there are completely valid reasons to avoid animal products and that finding sustainable methods to grow local and organic food is critical for our survival as a species. However, when a person feels entitled to pick up a crystal meant for display purposes and ask if she can take it because “it has such good energy,” or stands with a hand on his hip and points to the nearby McDonald’s, sneering, “I don’t know why anyone would ever eat there” after ordering a $15 salad, I don’t think what that person is doing is meant for the Earth, or even their chakra. It’s meant just for them.
But why was I there? Why had I thought a cashier position at a vegan restaurant was a good idea if I wasn’t an enthusiastic vegan? And why had I e-mailed the owner when applying that “...my devotion to maintaining a healthful and earth conscious food environment qualifies me to work at your prestigious establishment” if I was just going to turn around and stew in my snarkiness? While I may be slightly paraphrasing the whole experience, the simple fact is:
1. I am insufferable.
2. I am oblivious to my own insufferableness.
The truth is that not much separates me from the manically self-centered customers that graced my register. Except one thing. I never would have ordered juice “with love” then sent it back — which is exactly what tree necklace lady did.