“I’ll have a double shot Carmel Latte Macchiato. On ice. But, just a half of a pump of sugar free vanilla, decaf espresso, and carmel drizzle. Breve. Also, three of your breakfast burritos. Not too hot. And a pound of your Congo beans ground for a paper filter.”
Good morning, Sunshine. Welcome to the coffee shop. I’ll be your dealer, providing you with your daily fix of frothy, smooth, and barely legal morning drinks.
When you first start working at a coffee shop, the first skill to master is the register. Once you’ve got that down, you work your way through muffins and donuts to blended cold drinks. But, then comes the final dreaded step: conquering the espresso machine.
That espresso machine scares me more than anything else in the whole world. It’s big, and it’s loud, and it’s really hot! My fears got the worst of me the first time I had to make a drink on my own. Apparently, I thought it would be best to ignore the rubber handles and grab the scalding hot metal instead. I don’t think crying while taking the customers’ orders helped to increase sales much.
The only thing that could make the espresso machine worse are customers whom I like to refer to as “peepers.” Peepers stand on their tip-toes to peep over the top of the espresso machine and watch me as I make their drinks. The tension breaks my focus, my palms begin to sweat, and my fingers start to shake. Surprise… I spill. And then I have to make the drink again.
I really try my best to produce the fuel on which these people run. But even so, the only tips I get are the two pennies they received in change. That doesn’t even buy a gumball, much less pay for college.
As I continue to persevere with one burnt hand, a loud beeping blares through my headset until I answer the dreaded drive-thru. “Thanks for stopping at Dunn Bros. What can I get for you today?” “Um… I’m not really sure. Hold on one second.” The drive-up window seems like a strange place to have commitment issues.
“Um… I think I’ll have a… No. I’m not in the mood for that…. Honey, what do I want?” “Only you know what you really want ma’am. Not your husband.” Sometimes I feel like a therapist.
As I wait for the indecisive woman to make her final decision, one of the regular customers approaches me to inform me about her cat (which was in heat.) “Ok. Give me a… no… I had that yesterday…. Um… I think I’ll just have a small coffee.” “Alright! We’ll see you at the window!”
And that’s when it happened. The biggest “fail” of my barista career. As I hand the coffee out the window, I loose my grip, and send the coffee pouring down the side of the car. In panic, I climbed out of the drive-up window with a rag in attempts to clean her car. Unfortunately, she didn’t appreciate my gestures and drove off in a huff. I felt bad for a minute. But then I realized that I don’t actually care.
Being a barista requires relaxation, patience, and balance. And as hard as I try, I possess none of these skills. Especially balance.