It seemed like an idea that would leave me swimming in Lannister-level gold: selling hot coffee and melty paninis in a world characterized by the eternal imminence of winter. And for years, things were good: Sure, spelling “Jaqen H’ghar” on a cup is never easy, and if you get it wrong, he kills you and takes your face. Sure, I’ve lost three baristas—to greyscale, not the competition (there isn’t any). But the money was right, and running Westeros’ only Starbucks made me a hit at company retreats.
And then, the cup.
That effing cup. 1 The one time I run out of Extremely Venti Iron Mugs, in which we serve everything from espresso shots to caramel frappuccinos, someone accidentally leaves their paper cup on a table for the world to see. And who gets the blame? Me, of course. No matter that I supplied the caffeine for the most epic overnight battle in Westeros history, or that the dragons’ cow diet is seriously impeding my milk and cream supplies. One cup slip-up and they’re already in touch with Dunkin’ Donuts.
Maybe it’s for the best though. Because the truth is, I’m just done. This is far from Central Perk, my friends. It’s hell. It’s worse than hell. I’ve thought about joining the Night’s Watch, but I’ve got a kid in White Harbor and I need to stay within a reasonable carriage ride of his mother’s house for visits.
The real issue isn’t the lengthy commute, or the cold, or the certainty of apocalypse—it’s the clientele. I’ve cleaned dire-wolf poop, I’ve had Cersei berate my baristas and demand to speak to the manager, and I’ve had to make small talk with the Unsullied. Do I ever get a “thanks?” Or a bit of gold in the tip jar next to the Nora Jones CDs? Not once.
Take Bran Stark, for example. For weeks now he’s come in every morning, wheeled himself to the corner of the room, and stared at people as they order. The other day, we had a big delegation in from Bear Island; I was about to make an absolute killing on spicy chorizo breakfast sandwiches for the whole group when Bran whispered, sans context and to no one in particular, “Death is the only true inevitability.” He’s scaring all my customers, and never actually orders anything. Neither does Tormund, who once told me true Northmen are naturally energetic and don’t need the artificial enhancement of our “brown bean juice.”
And for those of you wondering, no, Daenerys Targaryen does not ask us to write her full name and many ridiculous titles on her cup. Would she, if she wasn’t also asking us to fill two bathtub-sized vats with our bold signature espresso for her dragon children? Maybe, but a good queen picks her favors wisely. Especially when her dragon toddlers have not once but twice destroyed my store by landing on top of it.
But dragon-inflicted repair costs pale in comparison to the annoyance of one Jaime Lannister. Lately he’s been trying to rebuild his hand-eye coordination, and refuses to accept coffee from our baristas with his good hand. The order itself is easy enough—mango dragonfruit refresher and a vegan superberry acai—but Lannister has dropped no fewer than 114 mango dragonfruit refreshers on the floor of my Starbucks. Use your other hand, please, I beg of you.
At the end of the day, the only guy worth serving was Hodor. He’d come in politely, order his go-to drink, “Hodor” (we’d give him an iced caramel macchiato), and be on his way. He was never wishy-washy about his order (Davos, good Gods man, make up your mind) or prone to debilitatingly boring stop-and-chats (you know it’s Tyrion). And I never found him hiding under the sink in the bathroom during a battle (Samwell Tarly).
So you saw a cup. Big deal. I’ve seen unspeakable horrors in this place, and that was before the open-bathroom policy.