Thursday, September 2, 2010

The Grind


Up to this point, I have had exactly 11 jobs. I've been a nanny, a freelance writer, a cashier at the Hallmark store, a doctor's office file clerk—even an aid at a Korean tutoring center. But the position that seems to stick with me the very most is coffee barista.

When I realized the Korean tutoring center wasn't my cup of tea, I interviewed at a local coffeehouse—hoping espresso was more my taste. I was 18. Naive. Just starting college. I had no idea that this job would shape me and impact me forever.

I know, I know. I'm a writer. The jobs that should've changed my life are the ones that helped me hone my craft. But those jobs didn't force me out of my shell the way the coffee job did.

I started out there trying to control flustered blushing attacks that sent me running to the kitchen (particularly when a hot guy would approach the counter). It was my first time having to manage people. First time employing PR skills to smooth over customer upsets. I'd never actually made a cup of coffee, let alone a double latte with soy milk and a shot of vanilla. And I'd never really had to schmooze.

I grew during my 4+ years at the shop. I came out of my shell and got so deep in the processes of the business, I almost felt like I could've run the place. When I was weeks away from graduating, one of my regular customers said, "I would buy this place if you'd stay here and be in charge of it." I was flattered, but I knew I wanted to fry some other fish...

Of all the jobs I've held, the coffeehouse gig is the only one I dream about on a regular basis. Just about every two months, I'm back behind that counter, straining to remember prices or drink recipes. Just this week, I dreamed I was trying to make a cappuccino. I clicked a serving of espresso grounds into the banger (I can't remember if that's what it's actually called) and was trying to level it off so I could insert it into the machine, but I just ended up making a big mess. I'm sure this is wholly indicative of some area of my life right now. Trying so hard, but can't quite get it right.

I wonder how long my coffee dreams will haunt me. If, when I'm an old lady, I'll still be thinking about my go-to greeting, "Hi, what can I get for you today?" Sometimes I wonder if I'll someday be beside an espresso machine again. Maybe in Napa or Florence. Only this time, I won't hide in the back when the handsome Italian men want to come in and woo me as I steam their milk...

8 comments:

Wow, that was awkward said...

Love the not your cup of tea segue to the coffee house. You are indeed an excellent writer.

I'll have a large sugar free vanilla nonfat no water extra hot chai please.

Sizzle said...

It's interesting what jobs shaped us/impacted us the most...I learned so much about dealing with people when I worked at Michael's Arts & Crafts for 4 years. But I would NEVER EVER want to work there again. ;-)

LesleyG said...

I have always thought I'd enjoy that job. I love dealing with people and I have had many jobs that do just that, but I'm not sure if it's just because I love it more when I'm not actually doing it. :)

thecoconutdiaries said...

You musta worked at one of 'dem dare fancy establishments because the one my friend worked at was full of potheads and bi-sexuals knocking boots on the manager's desk.

But my hometown was weird like that...

Mandy said...

You're dirty.

Danielle said...

I actually think that would be a fun job. I am ready for a fun job!

Mel Heth said...

Wow TWA - Ha I'm not sure that segue makes me an excellent writer, but thanks. Your coffee order will be shipped to you later today via Fedex.

Sizzle - Oh the crafting you must have done during your days at Michael's! I really think everyone should have to work in retail or the restaurant business sometime in their lives - then they would understand what it's like to deal with snotty customers - and maybe they'd become better customers themselves.

Lesley - It's a really fun job. The only drawback is coffee grounds in your shoes every day. :)

Coconut - That's so funny you say that - we had a bisexual and plenty of pot smokers! They just usually worked the night shifts. I was a morning shifter - so everyone was pretty prim and proper.

Mandy - I know you are, but what am I?

Danielle - It really is a great job. I've often thought it would be fun to write a book set in a coffee shop.

geekhiker said...

Ugh, don't go to Napa. Too trendy.

Maybe your dreams will haunt you until you do open that shop, though. Of course, when the hot Italian men come in the door, you'll have to worry if Mr. W is the jealous type!