From the tea brewing counter I see Iskielo struggling with a customer order, and as I make my way slowly to intercept, listening in to identify the problem, it’s clear: this is a customer who knows enough to know what questions to ask, and Iskielo has been left floundering to satisfy her now that her knowledge of tea has eclipsed his own knowledge of our stock.
Fortunately, it’s easy enough for me to step in smoothly.
“Oh, thank you,” the customer says fervently. “With the array of Cataclysm ingredients here, it’s important to be sure what I’m signing up for! I appreciate your knowledge.” Her gaze flicks to Iskielo’s and back to me, a mild rebuke.
I place my hand on his shoulder, standing by him, and bow, acknowledging her point. It does not do for our customers to have greater knowledge than our staff—but I am part of the staff, and so there was no reason for her to have to get frustrated in this instance. A twofold problem.
“I have sampled all the teas,” I assure her serenely, “and I am always happy to help.”
I draw Iskielo back to the counter with me and say quietly, “If you don’t know the answer, you can always ask me. That’s part of what I’m here for.”
“But I can’t depend on you all the time,” Iskielo protests. “I mean, I know you’re here, but this is what I’m here for too, isn’t it? I shouldn’t need to go to you every time.”
Internally, I’m surprised and impressed—Iskielo has always been enthusiastic, but I admit I never thought he took his work seriously.
“Not every time, certainly,” I say. “But asking questions judiciously is part of how we learn.”
“I don’t understand how you keep them all straight,” he says in frustration. “How do you remember which ingredient is in which, and what it’s supposed to taste like?”
“It helps that I know what it does taste like, not just what it’s supposed to,” I remark.
Iskielo frowns at me. “Wait. What?”
I cock my head to one side. It’s true that Iskielo has worked at Talmeri’s Teas and Tisanes longer than I have, but since I work here every day, it’s possible I have put in more hours here—and that, given my own personal passion for tea, I have made more of a point of developing this particular job knowledge, where he was likely derailed by Talmeri into more menial tasks she wanted no part of.
“I have sampled,” I repeat, “all the teas.”
Well, at least he knows what all the horrifying ones are called, if not what they do. I nod gravely.
“But what about the—the morlsbane sap one, that Lorwyn said would grow a garden of mushrooms on the drinker’s tongue?”
Of course he remembers that one.
“I have sampled,” I say a grimmer edge, “All. The. Teas.”
Iskielo’s expression is a mix of horror and awe. “No wonder you’re in charge,” he breathes. “I don’t think I could do it.”
His commitment only goes so far, it seems. In truth, I can’t blame him.
“Then make sure you ask me questions next time before the customer gets frustrated with you,” I say, “or else we’ll find out.”
He blanches and hurries back to work.
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