Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Through the Barista

So when I said that I'm not consistent with much in life, I wasn't kidding. Let us just get it out of the way and say that I royally suck at blogging. I'm okay with that. I hope the reader is too.
Through this blog I want to reflect on my current occupation, slingin' coffee. Working at Starbucks has become much more than merely serving coffee. It is my home away from home. It is the place where my friends are found, a place where I have a niche, and a place where I share my passion with others. Though serving up tasty beverages is a blast, the most dynamic and interesting parts of my job are the customers. I can't help but wonder about their lives, jobs, and families every time they come in. It is such a limited scope that I see their lives through. I find it humorous how I define them, and that is what I'd like to share with you today. It is my goal to give you a glimpse into my customers at Starbucks, the way I see them.
A typical morning at The Bux runs about the same. The overnight crew scurries to get done the last bit of cleaning, and the early morning crew drags in half asleep. Students sit in the lobby with bloodshot wide eyes hauling butt to get that procrastinated paper done by 8am. The caffeine seems to be working, they look focused and their fingers fly across the key board. I hope they get it done. Nurses and business commuters to Indy come through the drive way, in a slight rush. Venti red-eyes are the norm (brewed coffee with one shot of espresso).
She comes in almost every morning, a stronger women. Who knows her story? Why is she up so early? She has her own cup recycled Starbucks cup. Black ice tea, no water. Fifty-four cents. Frequently she'll just ask for a whole glass of tea, no water, no ice. I see right through you lady. We are all frugal these days, but I'm charging you fifty-four cents, and you're taking most of my black tea. Actually, you're taking three times the amount that everyone else gets for two twenty-five. And I know you'd throw a fit if I told you about your stealing bargain. Just say yes Brooklyn. You're a very pleasant lady, I like your home-made drink sleeve, I hope you have a nice day.
"Thank you for stopping at Starbucks today, this is Brooklyn, would you like to try a Pumpkin Spice Latte today?" "No Brooklyn, I'd like aVenti Coffee with cream." "Rose-Mary, get the heck over here!" It's the first of three, she'll be back so if I don't have time to ask her how she is this time around, all is well. Cigarette in her fingers, she has her two dollars and a dime ready for me. I love this lady.
"Thank you for stopping at Starbucks today, this is Brooklyn, I'm sure you'd like to try our Peppermint Mocha Twist today!" "Venti Coffee with Cream" "Hi Jim! Come on around!" Get that pup cup ready, store 2727's favorite dog is coming around. I have no idea what Jim does, but I know that in about two hours he'll come back through, "I'd like a Venti Cappiccino, with an extra shot, and could you add a little whip cream."
"Thanks for stopping at Starbucks today, this is Brooklyn, would you like to try an Espresso Truffle today?" "That's okay. Can I have a Venti Americano with a little steamed non-fat milk?" "You sure can, I'll see you at the window." I've never asked for his name, but he's a really nice guy. His big shiny black car is easily recognizable in the drive-thru camera. He'll never get up set for having wait an extra minute for an unexpected espresso error. With his hair slicked straight back, and in his business attire, I'd never be able to imagine him as a silly dad with fifteen children running around causing incredible ruckus. He's too formal at Starbucks. I'm sure he makes a fantastic business man, he carries a professional look.
A huge rumble at the speaker box usually lets me know she's here. "Thanks for stopping at Starbucks today, this is Brooklyn, can I offer you a Gingersnap Latte today?" "Hey baby girl. I wanna Mocha Frappiccino Grande with a shot of espresso." "Hi Lil' Chris!! I'll get that started for you!" This girl rocks. She is so adorable and drive a ridiculously old orange truck with black racing stripes on the hood." She cuts my hair every six weeks, and is only about 5 foot on her best day. Her cute self bring joy to my morning every time she comes in.
"Hello?" "Thank you for sto..." "I neeeeeeed a latte, with sugar free vanilla, no, sugar free hazelnut, can you put both?" "Yes we can" "Okay, so both of those in a Venti, iced, with a paper thing around a the side." "Okay, did you want all the pumps of syrup in it, or just half and half?" "Yes." "Oooookay? Go ahead and pull around." It happens a lot, you just have to laugh, otherwise you might start getting depressed.
""Thank you for stopping at Starbucks today, this is Brooklyn, would you like to try a Salted Carmel Hot Signature Hot Chocolate today?" "No. I want a tall sugar free vanilla latte with skinny milk, no foam, and a multi-grain roll very lightly toasted." Ladies and gentlemen, now enters Princess. She didn't get her name for exquisite demeanor. Nope. It is because if her drink has the lightest foam on the top (which kinda happen naturally with good steamed milk), she wants you to remake it. If there is not enough sugar-free vanilla (even if it is more than you would normally put in), you must add more. If her multi-grain roll is too hot, its bad. If it is too cold, it's bad. This lady is not afraid to be rude and merciless. It's incredible. Good part - I've become friends with her by chatting with her about her boy that she corresponds with on the internet, and she likes me. It works. Bring it on Princess.
"Hey pretty lady, I haven't seen you in some time." Oh no. Please don't talk to me. Creep-show is here. "Haha, hi!" Please let this be the end of our conversation. I'm sssooo uncomfortable. I'm sorry you had to work all last night, and that you work 12 hours tonight. Really I am. I really think you should stop looking at me now. Somebody get him his Venti coffee refill, get the 2% out of the fridge, and please just let me keep busy so I don't have to talk to him. I feel bad, I really do. I just get freaked out by him. Please exit Creep-show.
One of my favorite families comes into the store quite often. The mom wants a non-fat chai, the dad wants a non-fat mocha stirred, the son wants a regular mocha with no whip cream stirred, and his new fiancé gets either an iced or hot no water chai. Her ring is so simple. Neither of them make much, but their joy for one another makes up for it. She works at a local coffee shop, so it's nice to see her in here. I just love watching her light up while talking to him. So perfect. So in love.
"Thanks for stopping at Starbucks today, this is Brooklyn, would you like to try a Pumpkin Cream Cheese Muffin today?" "Well that sounds good, but I need to take care of my Sweetheart." [Insert simultaneous groan by all who have a headset on]. "My Sweetheart wants a Venti Cinnamon Dulce Frappaccino Light with no whip cream. Make sure you make that real good now. I gotta take care of my Sweetheart. And I want a Venti Cinnamon Dulce Latte fully loaded with two shot of espresso and whipped cream." The best part of this story is that every time I take their money, they pay me with their medicine bottles full of coins. And I'm not so fortunate for it to be all quarters. Ten dollars in miscellaneous coins is rough. Don't show angst Brooklyn. You love your job... remember?
Then there are the one timers that make their scar. Kind of like a really bad one hit wonder. "Yes I need a Peppermint Mocha Twist, non-fat. I don't want any espresso in it, just coffee in the same amount." "You realize that you're probably paying more than you need. I can just charge for a steamer with syrup and put a little coffee in for you!" "No I want the Peppermint Mocha Twist." "Did you want the whip cream on that?" "Yes" "Here you go. Have a nice day." "Ummm hello? I wanted it iced." "So you want iced coffee in it with peppermint and mocha?" "Yeah I have medication so I can't have caffeine. I just want like a third of the drink coffee." "A third? Would you like just one decaf shot in it so you aren't getting caffeine and you can still taste the coffee flavor, but not too much?" "No." Whatever. "Here you go." "This has whipped cream." "Yeah, I thought you said you wanted it?" "Know what? Whatever. What's your corporate number?" "1-800-STARBUX" "And your name?" "Brooklyn" "Great, I'll be reporting you." For helping you? "Okay, have a great day!" Just say yes Brooklyn. Some people seemed to get worked up over coffee. Maybe something tragic happened in their life, and I was the easiest person to vent something on. I guess that's okay. It happens to the best of us I suppose.
Araf comes in often for his tall Peppermint Mocha, and he is always a joy to talk to. I don't know his story, but he has think accent. It's sweet. His children come in with him and get Strawberry Creme Frappuccinos. They too are precious.
Billy is a kick. Mocha Frappaccino with three shots. He works two jobs 6 days a week, and one on Sunday. She is always so happy, but you can see he is worn out. What a hard worker. His wife is so pleasant. She's partially deaf, but is really good at carrying on a conversation. They work so well together, and he adores her.

These people are one of the best parts of my life. I love what I do. The people that come into the store make my day so unpredictable. I love my job. I LOVE working for the corporate monster Starbucks. It's not the company though, it’s not the free-trade coffee. It's the relationships with my partners and the people that come in to enjoy a cup of coffee that makes me excited to get out of bed each day and serve up a delicious cup of joe.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Yay! I love it! What crazy characters. And you describe them so well. :)