No, that’s not a euphemism. The gay guy really did give me extra whipped cream, on the hot chocolate I ordered from one of San Francisco’s million Starbucks coffee shops. This encounter happened at the front of the shop as all regular transactions take place; at no point was I invited to any store cupboards and given ‘a little extra.’ Stop thinking it now, please.
Here’s what happened.
After spending the previous two nights in Haight-Ashbury, the legendary hippie area of San Francisco, I was today obliging the second day of my tourist duties. Yesterday had been a long walk along the bay and beach to the Golden Gate Bridge, today was Chinatown and Market Street and the general downtown area. Incidentally, “downtown” is one of the few American words that I actually think is an improvement on the English equivalent (ours is “city centre”). Soda is another word I like, but I think if I started using that in casual use over here I’d be repeatedly stabbed by Essex chavs and shoved into a wheelie bin.
Chinatown disappointed me. I’d been told it was the biggest Chinatown outside of a China town, but bigger doesn’t always equal better, right ladies? In this case, bigger just left me wanting more, or at least something different.
Although I did see the following sign which cheered me up:
I thought that was hysterical. Yes, I’m childish. I’m aware there are starving children in Africa, homeless people living on the streets of London and chewing gum stuck to the bottom of your chair, and they’re all awful problems (especially that last one), but that doesn’t mean I’m not allowed to laugh at a sign that says “Willie “Woo Woo” Wong Playground.”
Before I mount my high horse completely, I’ll step back down and tell you about this Starbucks incident. I walked back from Chinatown and onto Market Street and found a quiet-ish Starbucks. I swear there are more Starbucks’ in San Francisco than there are Republicans, but thinking about it, that’s probably not all that surprising. Hippies! Stoners! Attractive people of indeterminate sex!
The barista (awful word) was a late-twenties guy with a shy smile and showed a nervous energy as he took people’s orders and served coffee. Somebody else ordered a hot chocolate before I did and the whipped cream he swirled on top was half-hearted at best. “I’ll have a regular hot chocolate, please,” I said in my charming English accent — none of this “can I get a…?” from me, thank you very much.
“Sure thing,” he replied, smiling at my accent, or at my face. It’s not for me to say. I’m just pointing out the facts. “Whipped cream and marshmallows?”
“Go on then,” I said, forgetting to remove superfluous dialogue.
The female barista prepared the hot chocolate then handed it over to my lovely gay chum. He swirled the whipped cream with gusto and finished off the top with a flourish. There was so much there it was already dribbling down the sides.
To conclude, in a very concluding fashion, I loved San Francisco. Chinatown and parts of the city itself were a little lacklustre, but as is so often the case on my travels, things improved when I had an encounter with a gay guy. They sure know how to make life interesting.