“Milk ruins coffee,” the barista-owner at the counter informs me with a sad shake of the head. “Just ruins it.”
This, just as I’m about to ask him to please leave room for some 2%.
I’ve been on an extended visit to a certain city in the Midwest, and while it’s not a bad place, there’s one thing that’s been getting on my nerves. Maybe I’m just in the wrong part of town, but it seems that I can’t go five feet without enduring a random encounter with some self-styled connoisseur. Craft beer, pour-over coffee: if it’s expensive and you can put it in your mouth, there’s always somebody around to tell you you’re doing it wrong.
I wish I’d stood up in defense of the coffee proletariat. I wish I’d said, “Hey, a friend of mine once ordered coffee and they accidentally gave her lemon juice instead of creamer, and even that was sort of drinkable. Calm yourself, sir. The coffapocalypse is not upon us yet.”
But then the guy starts going on about how terrible his stupid customers are, and I know it’s a lost cause. “The other day, a girl came in and had the gall to ask me if we had any flavored coffees. Can you believe it! I told her, all our coffees are naturally flavored. She said, ‘No, I mean, like caramel.’ Caramel? That’s not a flavor! That’s a syrup!”
This guy needs to take himself about 300% less seriously, I thought to myself, still dreading the moment when I’d have to ask for my milk.
It’s all well and good to have very specific personal tastes, but if you can’t stand customers who have the sheer nerve to not know about your product, maybe entrepreneurship is the wrong career track for you.
Don’t get me wrong, it was good coffee. (Even with milk. I promise.) But I’m already a shy person, and this experience just reinforced my fear of trying out new shops. I especially dislike businesses that seem to cater mostly to regulars, as they sometimes seem not to have any regard for first-timers at all.
When I first started roleplaying, tabletop RPGs were like a fancy local coffee shop but on a grand scale. The players were mostly older men who’d been rolling d20s since their teens, a very intimidating set of “regulars.” How are newcomers ever supposed to learn the basics, unless they are invited in?
I don’t think mine was an uncommon perception. It’s a shame, really, because it’s untrue. The tabletop community was the perfect place for a shy person like me to walk into, and when I quietly admitted, “I’ve never played before,” a whole chorus came back, “We’d love to teach you!” I think playing games has really helped me come out of my shell, and doing them online has actually improved my confidence talking on the telephone.
Not to say that there are no obnoxious players or that the roleplaying community has never had problems or isms. This is not even to say that I’ve never had a bad experience. (In my early twenties, I was once actually told that a group was “boys only.”) But this is an area where I don’t think roleplayers benefit too much from being under the “geek” umbrella. Everyone has an image of the snobby geek who gives you the side-eye if you only know Movie Batman or can’t tell New Who from Classic Who. I think that image gets transposed onto tabletop, and it keeps some people away from our little hobby. (If even other geeks think we’re a bunch of weirdo fanatics, then we must be ultra snobs, right?) I just want to tell the world that roleplayers really aren’t like that.
(Alright, I suppose there are indie snobs and old school snobs, but I’m willing to bet most of those would still teach you their game of choice with the earnest ecstasy of a door-to-door evangelist who’s finally been invited in.)
Or maybe I’m blissfully naive and the world is actually full of nose-in-the-air fancy-coffee-drinking RPG elitists who won’t let you into their fancy playgroup. Let me know in the comments what you think.