Chicago - Dec. 14, 2017
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Barista! The Coffee Goes Cold

Well, I can't put it off anymore, I have to break the news. You may have noticed my recent disappearance from the barista scene. While I'm sure that most of you dear readers assumed I was merely off on a month-long cruise of the Mediterranean, perhaps celebrating my exciting Lisagor nomination, I am sad to say that has not been the case. Nor have I been in a bitter, paralyzing funk over not actually winning the Lisagor. I am happy to say that is also not the case. I knew I stood no chance against a competitor with "Katrina" in the title.

Truth be told, I have struggled in recent weeks to be inspired. It is difficult to pour my feelings onto this page without the daily brewing of corporation- and people-loathing, for I am a barista no more. My heart hangs heavy.

I have undertaken a new job - one that pays me more and allows me to sleep past 3 a.m. No longer can I devote the time and passion essential to successful baristaship. Some might say my baristaship has sailed. Then again, I said that three years ago, and as luck would have it, I got sucked right back into the coffee undertow, head banging on the metaphoric burner the whole way. So I am opting not to say "never" again.

Despite all the disgusted reporting I've done in the past six months, observing and serving the delicate yuppie species, returning to my undisclosed coffee company was a good move for me . . . and not only because I accumulated a sweet stockpile of free beans.

My now-former store, located in a quaint little mansion-spotted suburb, provided me with unforgettable moments and interactions. Certainly my co-baristas gave me endless joy and full-bellied laughs throughout the days. I managed to find a whole storeful of really incredible characters. I will miss them. No longer will Velma and I proudly put Tina Turner's back-up dancers to shame. Nor can I design poop-persuasive pastry arrangements for Lillian. I know Leona's giant tits could still knock me down from across the counter, but I am not there anymore to duck and dodge them with the swiftness of Apollo Creed. They were my partners in customer-service crime.

You may be surprised, but I also feel a strange longing for certain loyal coffee patrons. Sure, I made an awful lot of transactional enemies, but I had even more allied customers that went largely unmentioned in this column. Let's be honest, you readers didn't care about them. You only wanted to know about the dipshits and the douchebags - the people with 27 drink modifiers and the clueless housewives whose ability to spread their legs and spend their husbands' money apparently gives them the right to act superior to the person pushing blend on their fatty-boom-batty whipped cream liquid meals that will be sucked off their hips and injected into their lips in six months.

Hell, I even miss those assholes. No longer can I fuck subtley with unsuspecting yuppie moms or their shit-stained children. My fine-tuned glares are wasted in my new gig, which bears no trace of customer service. I can't decide whether that upsets me or if I should be burning aprons in psychotic glee.

Either way, I have tried to scour my memory for instances or occurrences that I didn't report as they happened. I know they are there, I know there are many, and I would love to write this column until I was 50, henceforth in retrospect. But I am no longer in the muck and I cannot fake it for the sake of good material. Even my former co-baristas have offered me tales since my exit, but they are not my own and I am not there to feel them as they happen.

Customers and co-workers aside, I am grateful for my short-lived return to the coffee company because of how it affected me. It is all too easy to categorize and pre-judge people we encounter in casual spaces. While many of my customers fit right into the yuppie stereotype assigned to the neighborhood, many did not. Submerging myself into customer service once again reminded me how to interact with others, showed me the variety of people in a seemingly stark and one-dimensional town, and coincidentally renewed my patience with the human race by entirely unraveling it in the first place.

And now that it is all said and done, I hope I have at least caused a few of you to be more aware of your civility. Do you say hello to the person behind the counter? Does your finger contact glass when you try to draw attention to your pastry? Do you whisper orders to your server when the person on the other end of your cell phone is talking? Do you start your order with "Gimme a . . . "? Do you pick up after your kids in public? Honestly, just how specific is your beverage? Do you say thank you? Shit, I feel like a kindergarten teacher writing to an audience of adults.

But when you work on the front lines of trendy yuppie retail, you get used to adults who act like children. Learn from them so as not to become them. I hope all my stories and experiences have shown you why. At the very least, maybe you've considered your own daily interactions and wondered who your Maude is.

*

Maude Perkins was The Beachwood Reporter's pseudononymous service industry affairs editor while employed as a store supervisor for a large, publicly-held corporate coffee chain. You can read the Barista! series in our Life at Work collection here. If you'd like to be our next Life at Work columnist, drop us a line. Thanks for the memories, Maude.



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Posted on May 14, 2007


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