Health insurance was what lead me to the unnamed coffee giant. I was in my early twenties working as an office manager of a mechanic shop–which highly stressed me out with all the men screaming at each other, and sometimes me, for no good reason. I developed chronic hives that brought on other autoimmune problems. I believe it was partly stress from the job and partly too much dairy, sugar and processed foods that brought this on.
Anyway, I was worried about my health and if I had to make another trip to the emergency room, what it would do to my wallet. Ideas were bounced around. A friend of mine told me about an open house hiring event for “Coffee Giant” (this is how I will refer to it from now on). I figured it would be temporary since I didn’t really want a retail job. I wanted to put my writing and public relations skills to use, but there wasn’t anyone looking to hire me at that time. Or maybe I just wasn’t looking hard enough. At twenty-two, I was a little confused on how to get what I wanted.
So, a non-coffee drinker applied to make and serve coffee. I remember nailing the interview and feeling terrified how I was going to remember all these fancy drink recipes.
I almost quit the first month. Not because of the drink recipes, but because of some of my fellow baristas who were training me. Apparently this big hiring event brought on an influx of trainees and it was stressing the supervising staff out. But really, that’s just a big ole excuse for these jerks to be just that. They made us feel like we were in the way and a waste of space.
I picked up the cash register quickly, though, and was the only person who didn’t seem to mind being stuck there for hours. At this particular store, or maybe every Staten Island location, everyone was a bar hog! Especially the men. Oy.
Anyway, by my second week, I was training others on register. I still didn’t care for some of my supervisors, and wasn’t exactly loving the job, especially since I still dreaded learning how to make drinks.
Something changed though. I started working less with the jerk faces and more with some of the night crew; a latte of a different flavor! The night crew consisted of young college kids, mostly my age or a couple of years younger. They basically broke all the rules that they could get away with, but customers loved them and so did I.
Later I found out, they got wilder the closer it got to closing time. I was not a closer and usually opened, but I heard stories of sex in the back room along with mixing alcohol into blended drinks. I’m kinda glad I missed that…kinda.
While the morning crew were grumpy hard asses and the night crew were partying slackers, I was somewhere in the middle.
Eventually the jerk faces were transferred out of that store and the head of the party pack was fired, not surprisingly, but still to all of our dismay. The store balanced out a bit then, and I found myself having a blast at work. I made some awesome friends at that store, all of whom I still keep in touch with.
I even loved working on the bar, overcoming my fear of lattes and the intense foam of cappuccinos. That is, I enjoyed bar whenever the guys stepped aside and allowed me to. It seemed cash register and making whip creams was women’s work to these college kids. Once in a while, I, who didn’t complain a whole lot, would kick them off bar. And customers loved my drinks–probably because I actually followed the recipe, and didn’t re-steam the milk too many times.
I worked at this location for three of my eight barista years. To date, that is the longest I stayed at one store. The only reason I was transferred out of it was because I was promoted to supervisor. That story will be saved for next time.
I will refer to this store as the Good Times. Though, the saddest time of my life was during my run at this store. My mother passed away and my heart was broken. Aside from my family, my fellow baristas were my rock. Everyone showed their support from the entire area, including customers and my district manager. It overwhelmed me and I will never forget those who were there for me.
When I needed a shoulder to cry on, my friend stopped what he was doing, which was making drinks for a line of customers, to hug me. When I needed to go out and let off some steam, the girls would take me out drinking and dancing. When I needed money to help pay for the funeral, my manager helped apply for funds with the company.
Even through that awful time, the support I received will always help me remember the Good Times, and why I love my job as a barista–even if now, things have changed, I’ll look back and know why I held onto it for so long. Someday, I hope to let this job go, but being a barista has changed my life in so many ways. I have found myself over these past eight years and I have also found many amazing people along the way.