There is only one situation in my life where the saying “You are what you eat” has ever truly rung true for me, and that was the time during which I worked as a barista.
I like to think that I held this job before it became trendy, before every college graduate I know put in their time in the green apron and black slacks of Starbucks. I first worked coffee when I was fifteen, at a small local coffee and bagel shop. I then went on to pull espresso shots in one place or another until the end of my Master’s program, first at a small coffee shop near my college, then at the coffee shop within a bookstore during grad school.
What struck me about it all was how we behind the counter, having nothing much else to go on, quickly began to identify people by their drink orders. In the morning, when the coffee shop would open, you would see black-coffee-with-refill-and-toasted-cinnamon-raisin-bagel standing outside, and you would pull an extra bagel just for him. You would see a mom struggling a stroller through the front door and you would check to see if her single friend was with her, so you would know whether it was one non-fat-sugar-free-vanilla-no-foam or two.
Worst, for me, was when I would run into someone in the grocery store, and they, naturally, would remember my name (since I wore a name tag 99% of the time they had seen me) and so while I was greeted with a friendly “Hey Coral! How are you today? Not working, I see.” I would be left mumbling something non-committal while my internal dialogue went something like “Hey triple-shot-mocha-no-whip-extra-hot! How are you?!”
Don’t get me wrong, there were things I loved about working coffee. The chatty atmosphere late at night, when people would come in and linger at the end of the counter, drinking their tea without ever sitting at a table. I enjoyed the attention of the crazy old men, one of whom used to tell me regularly that he wouldn’t tip unless I laughed my crazy startling laugh at least once while he was drinking his coffee. There was the guy who slipped me a note to ask me out, throwing me for an unexpected loop when he compared me to the title character of Amelie.
I like that now when I run into people from work in the grocery store, a real name pops into my head, but a part of me is also secretly thrilled that there is a girl at a local coffee shop who thinks of me as large-iced-caramel-latte-with-skim.
*Book post is coming. I have had a nutso week and I know I never posted my review of The Forgotten Garden here, or my review of Ghostwritten, I don’t think. They are coming. Also, I’m almost finished Leithart’s Miniatures and Morals, which I will comment on in time. For now, this will have to satisfy.