If you take into account all of the ways that we’re supposed to be on the frontline you’d be left in complete bewilderment. I know I have. I walked from Newark to Wilmington in Delaware one winter day. It was bone cold. I remember I could only see a few feet in front of me because of the gusts from the snowstorm the day before.
I didn’t have the money back then. I was walking to work. I was a barista. Well, actually a cashier who masqueraded as a barista. I enjoyed the job, nonetheless.
You would think I could work at any other location since they popped up like pimples over the landscape.
But this one was special. This one had one of the finest cappuccino makers in not only America but the world. Now, again, I manned the register. But Just four feet away from me stood a gleaming, sleek, thoroughly efficient and beautiful piece of machinery. And the product was always warmed and delighted. So, I hope you can understand why I traveled so far in such treacherous conditions. And why was it late.
“You’ve been on time, Adley, until now. I get it, the snow. Understandable. But next time get up a little earlier,” Bridgette my manager admonished me.
If I could have reversed course and hightailed it back to Newark I still wouldn’t. The joy of engaging with the guest always motivated me. I closed. Every time I closed. Anytime someone asked for a good sized caramel macchiato, I would suggest a cinnamon scone to compliment the beverage. I remembered entire lists of information. I brought out all the big guns when it came to the day shift. But that night shift was a whole other beast.
I remember a man coming into the coffee shop with a bra and inside out shorts. The things you see at three in the morning, I tell you. But that day shift from 7 to 3 is the ideal time frame. It’s like the golden hours that sprinkle down awesomeness upon the whole crew. It’s super busy at peak hours and everyone works like a finely tuned machine.
So I never let the snow, rain, sleet, hail or other conditions impede me from my work. I even got awards for my efforts. A sound system, small laptop, and a brief cake and ice cream ceremony celebrated my industry.
But I wanted more. I couldn’t ask for a raise or promotion. All because of that goddamn role as a barista. I could never get the right combination to produce a beautiful latte. I treated the apparatus like an M16. My background as a Marine provided me the chance to be professional but not necessarily gentle. So, cashier I remained.
I kept at it. I continued until my drawer came up short. Three times. I was benched like a star player who had accrued too many fouls. I needed to find a way to increase my role as a distinctive and distinguished member of the team. My supervisor even hit me with the classic line, “there’s no I in team.” I retorted with ``but there are five in the word individualistic.” He didn’t like that. He respected it though. It would be another two weeks before I would use a draw again.
I noticed that other baristas/cashiers had picked up on my style since I had been benched. I was flattered. It appeared that I had influenced them all in one way or another. I would go back to that job anytime. Even if it meant trudging through the snow.