At just after 6 PM today, I walk into Le Pain Quotidien in Beverly Hills, a magical emporium of upscale coffee and Nutella dripping pastries that are calling out to me: “Come have us and you will regain the strength to work another 6 hours, weary business woman!”
Unfortunately, guarding the goods is a squat, magenta headed clerk, who yells at me from behind the counter, “We’re CLOSED!” Yes, she yells in CAPITAL LETTERS. Plus, she smirks. Apparently the store did not need a “closed” sign or a locked door. It just had a gaping mouth above the counter to do its dirty work. I’ve heard this voice for the last few years. It is the voice of “business present” in most every retail or food establishment. An angry, overly-familiar, spit-in-your-soup, no-I-won’t-check-in-the-back kind of voice.
I reply: “How good for you then.” I turn, fling my imaginary boa over my shoulder and begin to exit the place that I never should have entered (for both service and caloric reasons).
Our sad little scene is suddenly interrupted by a man who magically emerges from the kitchen, like the ghost of “business future” and yet also “business past.” In his crisp white shirt with the sleeves rolled up, he speaks. “We are open. You may have anything you like, except espresso. But, we have everything else.”
I smile at him because he, whatever his title or responsibility, is like me. We want to do business. We want to go out of our way. We want to stay late and come in early. We believe that we make the difference, as consumers and as purveyors. No matter what the news reports, we are still building our businesses and our careers. We know it’s just hard work after hours and above or below our pay grade, that makes us look lucky to people who do less.
I get a regular cup of coffee and 200 calories of something crunchy and sweet from this man, for the crazy price that delicious costs at these places. “It was a mistake. A misunderstanding,” he almost whispers to me as I thank him for helping me. I am restored just by his intention.