Things For People

No strong convictions about this blog site to speak of. Just occasional musings inspired by things that transpire outside my window: LAPD helicopters searching for fugitives, transvestite prostitutes wrestling with their pimps at 3am, and the chubby kid next door who sings in the shower 4 times per day.

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Location: Los Angeles, California, United States

Sunday, August 24, 2003

I am a barista

I am a barista. The worst barista in history. It is difficult to imagine that one could describe a job that pays $7 an hour as “complicated.” For me, it is quadruple bypass surgery. This is a typical Sunday --

Arrive at 5:45 am. Fifteen minutes late. Smelling like bourbon. Forget to clock in. Not wearing the same type of shirt that everyone else is wearing. And the one that I am wearing is wrinkled and has mustard on it. My boss (who was 8 years younger than me) asks me how much sleep I got the night before. It was never enough. My boss and I didn’t have much of a relationship. He didn’t particularly care for me, but his thick Italian accent tended to buffer the derogatory comments. “Adam, why are you such a jerk?” “Adam, why don’t you just kill yourself?” After contemplating that for a few moments I would assign myself a cash drawer. Always on the wrong register. I had a 50/50 chance of signing on to the correct register. Always the wrong register.
For several minutes the “fur is murder” vegan has been standing outside the front door waiting for us to unlock it, pacing around vigorously and dramatically shivering in the freezing August sunrise as if to indicate that her pacing should induce us to open earlier than the clearly posted time of 6:00 am. I am milling about the entryway, pretending to arrange things, pretending that I don’t see her while humming a sweet tune that goes something like, “Bacon, oh bacon, delicious delicious bacon.”
Unlock the door. She marches through full of indignation, throws a plastic bag in the general direction of the garbage can, and misses it completely without giving a damn. It lands on my foot and oozes a mystery liquid into my shoe. "Triple grande soy caramel macchiato, easy caramel, easy vanilla. I’m in a hurry." "Okay, grande caramel frappucino. Do you want whipped cream on that?" "Macchiato." "Oh, sorry. Nonfat milk or whole milk?" "Soy. I'm vegan." Spend 2 minutes searching for the soy button on the computer screen. Head to the bar to make the drink. 4 pumps of vanilla syrup. 2 in the drink, one on my hand, one somewhere near my crotch. Steam the milk. Then remember that it was supposed to be soy. Spill the 170 degree milk on my hand reaching for the soy. Drop the tin bucket thingy onto the floor. Milk all over the place. Steam the soy. Forget to monitor its temperature while trying to get the metal doo-dad with the espresso to fit into the slot. 210 degree soy milk. Forget to put the espresso in the drink. A cup full of hot soy milk and caramel. "Double half grande big 2 pump, er...double I mean triple caramel mocha, um latte, know what you ordered right?" She looks at me with utter contempt. I try not to take it personally, for after all, I am a carnivore, and she harbors contempt for all carnivores, including puppies. Ravenous, bloodthirsty puppies. Off she storms into the LA morning on a one woman mission to usurp the Republican party. I resume staring into space for 5 minutes, wondering what box my college degree is packed in.
“Hi.” “Excuse me, hello?” I don’t know how long the new customer has been standing there. She has a refreshingly sincere smile lighting up her face despite the fact that she’s on crutches. They are colorfully artistic. The foam pads that rest underneath the armpits are designed like something you might find at the Taj Majal. As a barista, I was encouraged to strike up conversation with the customers. “So, how long do you have to be on crutches?” "Well, I'm an amputee so I guess forever." From behind the register I can only see her from the waist up. My inner dialogue runs rampant -- “You stupid! I can’t believe how stupid…why did you have to say something so…” She cuts in -- “I’ll take a frappucino.” She’s still smiling. Still sincere. That makes it even worse. Just let it go, and make the frappucino. My head is spinning with a hybrid of embarrassment and self inflicted anger. During the internal melee I forget to put the lid on the blender. Frappucino helicopter crash to clean up. Bodies everywhere.
My boss emerges from the office -- "Adam, why don't you go ahead and take your break?" It's 6:05 am. I have been at work for 20 minutes. Grab a bagel on the way out the door. Knock the rest of the bagels onto the floor. There will be no more bagels today. Stand outside for 10 minutes and watch the homeless people deal with rejection. Back to work. Drink another coffee with 2 shots of espresso, a concoction that should induce productivity, but instead renders me hyper and confused. Log back onto the register. My boss walks by. I know that look. The look that says he’s about to ask me a rhetorical question masking itself as an actual question to catch me at the core of my incompetence. "Adam, do you need any change?" "I don't know. Maybe, probably not. Probably." My boss opens the cash drawer. "You know you're supposed to put your $20 bills in the drop box, right?" "Yeah." "There are 7 $20 bills in your drawer." "Yeah." Meanwhile, in the background Brownglasses Manlady is huffing and puffing, "Where's my mocha!? I said two pumps of mocha! Two pumps! Can you take the foam off? I just hate foam." I guess I'm a simpleton. To me, coffee is caffeine. A stimulant to get you going. Milk is a cutter. Takes away the bitterness. Put coffee and milk together, the job interview goes fine. People actually take the time to call the official complaint line to express their disdain with the fact that they had 2 inches of foam in their vanilla latte' instead of the standard 1 inch. We would get memos about it with the date, time, and our names highlighted at the top of the page. If I were running the show, everyone who calls the complaint line would be prompted with a message from a little boy in Iraq, "I lost my legs yesterday when I stepped on a landmine. I haven't seen my parents for three days. I fear that they might be dead. I have no running water or electricity, and I'm very hungry. To complain about the temperature of your double tall extra foamy half decaf half pump vanilla 2 raw sugar 2 ice cube soy latte', press 1.