Sing for your order

So there I was, sitting in Union Coffee in Milford, checking out the paper, drinking a Rwanda coffee and watching people go to the counter and order their drinks.

I am a people watcher.

In Lisbon, I sat at an outdoor cafe drinking a beer and just watching people walk up and down and years ago, when my daughter and I would go to the theater in Boston, we’d get there 90 minutes before curtain, sit on the floor in the lobby, and just watch folks come in.

Well, of course, you ask why, and of course I have no idea. But it was fun.

But as I sipped my coffee in Union Coffee I suddenly realized that, at least for that moment, it was no longer enough. I wanted more. But more what? And then it came to me in a flash of genius inspiration:

I wanted to be entertained.

On, sure, there was music coming from cafe speakers, lots of local musicians singing and playing, but that wasn’t what I wanted. But what did I want? I pondered. I puzzled. And then, finally, I mused. And that did it. Musing usually does.

What I wanted was to be entertained by …

The customers.

Ah, brilliant, but how?

I pondered, puzzled and mused some more and then, of course (as you expected), it came to me:

It has become time for the proprietors of Union Coffee to require – demand, insist – that their customers …

Sing their orders.

No more just saying, “One coffee, please.” Ugh. How boring. Boring, BORING.

Uh uh. You want a coffee? A sandwich? A cocoa? You must sing for it.

It’s like that scene in “Gone With the Wind” in Atlanta when the doctor announces at the ball that, “Gentlemen, if you want to dance with the lady of your choice, you will have to BID for her.”

Everyone was appalled, of course, likening it to a slave auction but in the Civil War south, white folks pretty much figured nobody was going to sell them down river and separate familes. So, yeah, they did it. It was SOOOOO thrilling to be SOOOOOO white and safe and PRETEND you were actually being auctioned, which is a little like us white folks today thinking we understand what it’s like to be black in America. But there you have it …

Singing for your coffee isn’t quite the same thing. And don’t be ashamed of your voice. JUST DO IT.

Oh, two other rules:

1. You must sing it to a tune, the name of which you announce in advance.

2. The folks behind the counter have to sing back to you using the same tune, but, obviously, different words (they’ll probably dig doing it, actually; they’re pretty cool about stuff.)

Sorry, one extra rule, not numbered: I don’t have to do it. My thing, my rules.

So, I’m sure you want an example of how this would work and even if you don’t, well, I’m at a point at the moment where I have to amuse myself because I am not at Union Coffee, although you could be reading this there. Let’s see:

YOU: My order is to the tune of Wilson Pickett’s “Wait ‘Til the Midnight Hour.”

“Hey, I’m here for my morning coffee, put it in a paper cup to go.

“And I think I will have a pastry. I just hope that I’ve got the dough.

“If I don’t, I’ll pay up tomorrow; even if the bread I must borrow. For my morning coffee.”


“OK, buddy, here’s your coffee. And it looks like you got the bread.

“So I’m gonna give you a pastry. You look like to need to be fed.

“Then off you go to your job; watch the crumbs, man, don’t be a slob.

“With your morning pastry.”

Get it? It cooks, right? OK, one more:

YOU: I will be ordering my coffee to the tune of Louden Wainwright III’s “Drinkin’ at the Bar”:

“I got to have coffee now. And add in some milk from a cow.

” I don’t want no almond or soy. That’s milk that I just don’t enjoy.

“And then I’ll sit down and drink. And read the paper here and think.

“You see I know what I need. Yeah, I know what I need.

“I need to drink coffee and read.”


“Here’s your coffee my friend. Add your own milk and stir it to blend.

“Then you can go have a seat. The coffee is hot, you can sure feel the heat.

“Now here’s what I need from you. Yeah, here’s what I need from you:

“You gotta duke me the bread that’s due.”

I’m now amused. And can’t you see it spreading, like to County Stores or Intervale Hardware? Asking for nails or screws by song?

YOU: I will be ordering what I need to the tune of “Shimmy Shimmy Coco Bop” by Little Anthony and the Imperials:

“Gimme nails and screws, my friend; I’ve got work to do.

“Wait, my order doesn’t end, I’ll take a hammer too.

“Put them all into a sack, that’ll do the trick.

“If I need more, then I’ll come back and I’ll do it quick.”


“Here are screws and here are nails, and the hammer, too.

“You’ll be back, it never fails, you’ll have more to do.

“You just never buy enough; man, you sure are cheap.

“You should always buy more stuff, there’s room in your Jeep.”

Of course, if YOU don’t know these tunes, you’ll have trouble following along but I don’t care. The object of all this is to amuse ME.

ME (singing to the tune of “Since I Don’t Have You” by The Skyliners):

“I’ve filled space enough.

“It wasn’t all that rough.

“I-I-I-I-I-I, can stop writing now.

“Did I hear you sob-ob-ob?

“I think I’ll read a book.

“More likely I will cook.

“I-I-I-I-I-I do the cooking here.

“My wife has a job-ob-ob.”

Ah, that covers it. Isn’t singing fun? Remember, though, when it comes to singing one’s orders in public, I’m off the hook. You? I don’t think so.