“Writing a novel is like walking through a dark room, holding a lantern which lights up what is already in the room anyway” – Virginia Wolf
I love coffee but I do not need it to fuel my mornings. Sometimes, when time permits, I write at a coffee store around the corner from where I live. It is such a nice, cozy and welcoming place. I usually go there alone when I work, but there is always someone to chat with or listen to. I am spending a great deal of time working on my second book, which can be exhilarating and exhausting, but always blessing. Despite all the craziness in my life and in the world, I must continue to do my work. Creating takes much of the artists time, and may seem a self-serving prospect. But my directive is, to offer something meaningful, that hopefully provides a transformative experience. May it be through thought, tears, laughter or illumination ignoring the voice in my head that wonders if I really have anything of value to add.
“Look behind you. You are not alone. Don’t permit yourself to be ambushed. Watch out for the snakes. Watch out for the Zeitgeist – it is not always your friend. Keats was not killed by a bad review. Get back on the horse that threw you” – Margaret Atwood
So there I sat, sipped my coffee and typed along while the snow came down quietly. I thought about my job search and the different turns my life may take soon when I saw the barista behind the counter wiping away tears. There is never nothing going on. While I think my problems are so severe, others are struggling as well or even worse. For the sake of keeping the costumers happy and caffeinated, this barista went out of her way but she had to deal with this one rude customer. Apparently, the argument was about a coffee order she got wrong and a tip of this costumer.
I usually leave something in the “Tip Jar” so this made me philosophize. I mean, really think about it – metaphorically, you could ruin someone’s life if you don’t tip them. Let’s say, for example, you did not leave the sixty-five cents change as a tip after ordering your large latte and ham and Gruyère croissant. Diane, the barista, now found herself short on bus fare to get to her second job because she is working to pay off her student loans. Had you tipped Diane more, she wouldn’t have to walk to her ex-husband’s house who read her a shitty poem in French that he had written after they broke up. Now they got back together, and Diane is miserable. Also, if you would have tipped her more, she could have afforded a haircut before her job interview with the government the next day. An interview for a well-paying full-time job. She did not get the job and decided to live with her ex-husband again because it is “convenient”.
The barista looked over, smiled at me and I realized who really deserves a commendation. I chatted with her a bit on her 20-minute break to learn more about her profession and cheered her up a bit. The conversation was unsurprisingly full of insight. Have you ever wondered what a barista deals with on a daily basis? Grab a Cup of Joe for this one.
So what happened earlier? Why did you cry?
This customer is a “regular”. He comes here every single day and orders the exact same thing without even looking up from his phone. If it takes too long (in his opinion) he starts to argue with me or any barista here in a very mean way. I wonder sometimes how miserable his life must be if he treats me like this. What is going on in his life? I am just doing my job the best I can. At least look me in the eyes when you order or invest just a few minutes in what is happening around you before you put in your order. Also, do not let your anger out on me because neither do I. It would be so much easier if we are all just nicer to each other.
Does it annoy you to see the same customers every day?
Most people are very nice. They ask for my name, smile and have a little chat while waiting. For others, ordering coffee is just part of their morning routine and I respect that. What drives me crazy is, when customers come in every day, ask for complicated orders that are not on the menu and don’t want to pay for all the components of that order. It is that type of entitlement that really drives me crazy.
Do you judge patrons based on what they order?
There are of course certain drinks that I think will taste better with less of this and more of that but that does not mean you should not order them. Of course, I will make you that drink because we all have different tastes, likes, and dislikes. The other day I was wondering why a customer wanted to have steamed milk over a brownie but hey, you like what you like. Your money, your order, your drink.
What’s your weirdest/funniest interaction ever with a customer?
Sometimes customers ask strange questions and I think that answering those feels like explaining Valentine’s Day to extraterrestrials. Kind of like, we give each other gifts because we love each other but then there is a mutant flying baby that also shoots people, but just metaphorically. Sometimes it is also weird when I try something new with the customer such as new coffee blends or new ways of preparing different types of coffee (“Have you tried oat milk yet?”). Also, someone asked me once to put “Dick Rider”, “It’s Over”, “Hail Satan” or “Douchbag” on the cup after I asked him for his name. Also, I will not draw a penis on your cup.
Do you pay attention to who is tipping how much and for what?
I do pay attention to who does and who does not tip but not always. It is usually not how much but whether the customer tips at all. When someone does tip, I see it as a sign that they were happy and satisfied with my service or I feel like I connected with someone and they tip after I helped them in some way. I do understand that paying $5.20 for a latte is kind of expensive, that you probably do not want to tip when I put your croissant in a bag but we have to live, too. Don’t even ask how much I am making in one hour. Just don’t!
Do people still order real milk?
Some do, but not many. People are really into soy milk these days, even though it is even more expensive. The latest thing, however, is oat milk. It is really growing since we started offering it as a milk alternative. I love the flavor and it is so easy to make at home, too.
Do you ever go overboard on caffeine because it’s free?
Every. Single. Day.