Danny Wallace: being told to enjoy something is never enjoyable
Another life lesson from our award-winning columnist
The man in the coffee shop with ideas above its station has a new member of staff, and every time she makes you a coffee she lays it in front of you and says, “Enjoy!”
But she doesn’t say it like she wants you to enjoy your coffee; she says it like she wants you to enjoy her work.
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It is all about her, and it infuriates me.
“I think maybe she’s just saying she hopes you like the coffee,” says my friend, who I’m not going to name, because I actually think he comes off as a bit of a berk here.
“No,” I say. “It’s like she’s done you a painting or something. She says it like you’ve been lucky enough to witness her at work.”
Then I reveal the vital evidence: “And she half-closes her eyes when she says it.”
Half-closing her eyes as she slides the coffee towards me is a way of saying “Yes, that’s right, I made this, and now I bestow it upon you, a lowly citizen with inferior tastebuds and no idea how to use the special coffee machine, for you to ‘enjoy’ in whatever way you do”.
It’s very dismissive, but I’m on to her. And make no mistake, I don’t buy coffees not to enjoy them. I purposefully wish to enjoy my coffees. But I wish to enjoy them on my own terms and using my own skill and judgement. I cannot and will not simply agree to enjoying one until I have actually picked it up. Plus it’s only a coffee. It’s not like she stood there and wrote a play.
“It isn’t just the enforced enjoyment that irks me,” I tell my friend. “It’s the arrogance of saying ‘enjoy’.”
They only say it in places like this. They don’t say it in Greggs. No one slides a sausage roll at you in Greggs, calls it artisan, and whispers “enjoy!”.
I hate it. “Enjoy!” is so pompous. I see it all the time. A friend puts a poem they wrote when they were 13 on the internet.
“Here’s a poem I wrote when I was 13,” they write. “Enjoy!”
What on earth makes you think I’m going to read a poem you wrote when you were 13, let alone enjoy it? Do you think I have limitless time? Do you think I am under the impression that there are no other websites on the internet?
No – you think I’m going to enjoy it because you did it and you are brilliant.
There is a new attitude that has crept up on society, where everyone’s an artist, everyone’s opinion must be heard, everyone constantly craves feedback.
“Here are some pictures I took of interesting windows I saw on holiday,” you’ll read. “Enjoy!”
Saying “Enjoy!” is saying “Here is my gift to you”, whether it’s a poem or a coffee. But it’s not a gift when it’s a coffee, is it? It’s a coffee.
“What would you rather she said?” asks my friend, nodding at the barista.
I think about this for a moment.
“If they’re going to say anything, they should just say ‘Here you are’ or ‘I hope you like this coffee’.”
My friend nods.
“I think you should just let them say ‘enjoy’ and then say ‘thank you’,” he says, and he is being such a berk right now that I’m no longer willing to grant him anonymity and will tell you he’s called Sam. But Sam is wrong about this, and if he’s wrong about this I worry about what else he might have been wrong about over the years. I would not be surprised if after this his marriage starts to fail.
I will not grant Sam any leeway with his stupid opinion. People saying “enjoy!” are trying to exact gratitude from me and make me feel lucky they’re sharing their talents with me.
But I know just what to do.
“I’m going to buy another coffee,” I say.
Sam blinks at me like all I’ve done is say something normal; like I haven’t just blown his mind with my plan. So I make it clearer.
“I’m going to buy another coffee and see if she says ‘enjoy!’ again after.”
“That’ll be fun,” he says, and if I didn’t agree with him I’d think he was being sarcastic.
So I go up to the counter and I order another coffee.
The woman says nothing, just nods, then turns and starts banging the machine importantly.
BANG BANG BANG LOOK AT ME I’M MAKING A COFFEE.
She turns back to me.
“Three pounds 20, please,” she says, like you can put a price on art.
I count out the coins. Then I put them on the counter and I slide them towards her.
“Enjoy!” I say, taking my time and holding her eye.
By which I mean looking at her. I don’t mean I reached out and tried to hold her eye.
But the woman positively beams at me.
“Thank you!” she says, like I’ve really made her day, like by simply wishing her something nice in her life I have actively improved everything. And you know what? I love it!
So I have to say, I’m absolutely furious when my coffee arrives and this awful woman doesn’t say “enjoy!”.