My stint as a Starbucks barista, baby-boomer style
The first clue that we're not in Kansas anymore, Toto, is that all of my co-workers are 20-somethings. I'm a baby boomer. I took this job as Assistant Manager for Starbucks when my Corporate gig got unendurable, see: [http://open.salon.com/content.php?cid=74808] I took this gig because:
1. I need a job
2. I like coffee
3. How hard could it be?
I'm a big believer in these 3 words: "Get A Job." Usually I use them when watching ancient rock stars perform, or yell them at the T.V. at a particularly grotesque politician, or think it to myself when an ice-head bums money from me at McDonalds. And always one to take my own advice, signed up at Starbucks. I was immediately surrounded by energetic, peppy, caffeine-driven 20 somethings, otherwise known as Generation Y's or Millenials. To say I was a bit intimidated is an understatement.
"Would you like an iced coffee?" Fact: these have the most caffeine of any of the drinks served at Starbucks.
The Millenials that I worked with were, as they are want to say, "awesome!" They were smart, in committed relationships, highly educated, high-tech savvy and the girls don't take shit from anybody. While they were smart in the "I'm studying to be a doctor" smart, they were politically imbecilic , leading me to conjecture that in 20 years we'd have gulags in the midwest or New York filled with super smart doctors on chain gangs going through caffeine-withdrawal. I"m just saying.
"Would you like whipped cream on your Frappuccino?" We always ask if you want whipped cream because it's homemade and expensive. I used to make the whipped cream. Happy Face.
Point #2. I like coffee. And there is plenty of free coffee when you work for Starbucks. Skinny vanilla latte's, brewed coffee, cappuccino's, espresso shots straight. One of my favorite things to do was to taste test the espresso shots once an hour to make sure the quality was good. As Robin Williams once said, coffee is the poor man's cocaine. They should have a wing for it at Betty Ford.
Point #3. How hard could it be? Oh dear, dear self. Are you really so self-deluded as you approach fifty that you couldn't figure out that bagging trash (coffee grounds!) and bringing it out, mopping floors, bringing boxes down from storage, sweeping and scrubbing endlessly was easy? Ah no, working at Starbucks is less about making coffee and more about keeping the store CLEAN. I don't even like cleaning my own house. The day I'm proudest of is when I channeled my inner Gandhi & volunteered to clean the employee toilet. It was less an act of sacrifice and more a chance to rest my right knee which was swollen from the endless standing, walking and schlepping, causing me to limp for a week while the millenials scampered around me like the 101 dalmations. And you cannot wear Bengay while working at Starbucks. Suck it up!
I was waking up at 2:15 a.m. some mornings to be part of the opening shift. I had 2 10 minute breaks a day and a 1/2 hr. lunch, usually eaten in slumped relief at a table outside, trying to sleep with my eyes open, wishing to appear relaxed instead of easing into a coma. I'd come home saying things like, "Dude!" "Awesome!" My husband would cock his head at me, like a puzzled cockerspaniel and my son would cringe, secretly convinced my lifes purpose was to embarrass him. [Of course, it is.] Even the dog took pity on my social flaws and nosed her bone to me as if to say, "Eat, eat, you'll feel better." Just what I need, a blue-heeler jewish mother.
I had a lovely manager who was training me. Except for the eensy, tiny, little life-changing event happening in her life in that she was currently married to the boy of her dreams and was about to come out of the closet, which would most likely rock his world and the church they attended weekly. Uh-oh. One night she stayed out all night drinking (she hadn't really drunk much in years) and came to work at 4:30 for the opening shift, dead-on drunk and giggling like Judy Garland. Try to imagine a straight-laced young woman about to announce to the world she was gay, drunk at 6am and making cappuccino's and flirting endlessly with the male lawyers (??) coming through the line. There was something just so wrong about that.
After eating one too many turkey pesto sandwiches and smiling perkily at one too many paranoid customers "WHY do you want to know my name?!", another corporation tracked me down to offer me a job in my actual career path.
Thank you, Jesus! I mean, I'll have to think it over.