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Barista! The Motley Weekend Crew

Nothing better illustrates the word "juxtaposition" like Saturday nights and Sunday mornings at my store. I believe I have so far aptly conveyed that the majority of my customer base is made up of white, upper-class Americans. With the exception of the occasional landscapers or construction workers who trickle in from the yards of the rich white people, there are very few diversified exceptions to this rule.

Aside from Saturday nights and Sunday mornings, that is.

On the weekends, many traveling homeless people land in the suburban location of my store to use the church shelter available to them. The only catch is that they must relocate during Saturday night and Sunday morning services so that the rich people can pray.

For a few hours at a time, our store is filled with homeless people who have shuffled down the winding blocks lined with mansion after mansion carrying all their possessions on their backs to get here. Most of them order a small coffee, knowing that many stores would ask non-customers to leave.

Personally, it doesn't bother me if a couple of them just want a warm comfy chair in which to plop. Most of the homeless people are polite and keep to themselves, so we leave them alone. On the other hand, I have no reservations evicting the dozens of bratty pre-teens that swarm the store on Friday afternoons, hormones a-raging. It actually gives me great pleasure to show these kids to the exit and suggest that they return to their semi-custom mansions and play video games or something. Go get dumber somewhere else, I tell them.

But the homeless people - they don't bother me.

There's an old dude who once lined his coat with CDs, which wasn't particularly polite, but he didn't put up a fight when we asked him to put them back. And then last weekend, there was a gentleman who erupted at us for having the music too loud on a Sunday morning. In the entire hour that he had been hanging out at our store up to that point, he hadn't actually bought anything, but he firmly believed in his right to have a conversation on a Sunday morning without music interfering. He ended up storming out of the store yelling, "No sale! No sale!"

I don't blame him entirely. I throw similar fits when Sarah McLachlan's Christmas album comes on for the seventeenth goddamn time of the day. I have officially made it a rule in the store - no more Sarah McLachlan before 9 in the morning. That bitch messes up my day. I need to hear the Charlie Brown Christmas album three times just to offset the damage done by pre-9 a.m. Sarah fucking McLachlan.

Anyway, the best part of the homeless people, aside from the excitement of a little diversity in my store, is that they keep the locals out. Rich people get freaked out when they see a store-full of homeless people. Especially in their yuppie coffee shop! Each time an unsuspecting, latte-seeking, rich customer steps into the scene, their facial expressions are absolutely priceless. It's almost as if they are forced to confront their privileged lives and it makes them observably uncomfortable. Which, as you can probably imagine, amuses me endlessly. I also like to observe the homeless people and wonder what they think to see people with so much nonchalant excess, so disconnected from the real weight of money.

In my monotonous weeks spent serving essentially the same five white people over and over again, the weekends are a welcome change of pace for me. I have had several poignant moments serving the richest of folks, while simultaneously surrounded by the poorest of them. Like a liaison between these blaring cultural extremes, I am a familiar face to the nervous rich people and a comforting face to the homeless people - my co-workers and I may be the only people in town who don't look at them with condescension.

Besides, most of the homeless people are dazzling conversationalists. Whether they are talking with themselves, each other, or with you, it is never short of fascinating. They help remind me that everyone has something to say, and every once in a while, it's good to hear the something from someone with absolutely nothing.

Maude Perkins is The Beachwood Reporter's pseudononymous service industry affairs editor currently serving time as a store supervisor for a large, publicly-held corporate coffee chain. Catch up with the rest of her heartwarming stories here.


Posted on December 18, 2006

MUSIC - Chief Keef Changed The Industry.
TV - Vizio's Best Product Is You.
POLITICS - UIC: Soda Taxes Work.
SPORTS - More McCaskey Malpractice.

BOOKS - All About Poop.


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