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They're Called Baristas Because "Annoyed Misanthropes" is Bad PR

  Before I wrote books, before I taught, even before I worked as a TA in graduate school, I worked as a wage slave of a coffee shop. Although it did kind of inspire at least one blog post, it never really spurred me to write a full on advice column. I attribute this to the fact that the only advice I could offer a barista would only come out as a protracted death gurgle, halfway between attempting to choke myself on my own saliva and screaming for the poor sap to run and never look back.

  You may think I’m over-exaggerating. I assure you, I am not.

  Although there are some people who, through whatever unholy combination of inbred genetics and childlike exuberance, can take all the bullshit that working in the service industry entails, the vast majority of those inside loathe what they have to do to earn their daily pittance. And there’s just something about working in a coffee shop that feels especially harrowing, like every moment spent inside swipes just a fraction of our soul.

  (Before anyone leaps in with a chorus of “BE GRATEFUL YOU HAD A JOB”, keep in mind that most people are grateful to get any work they can. But being grateful for a paycheck and being happy with the treatment you get from clients/management are two very different things. If someone is unhappy with what they have to do to make ends meet and your first response is “Well, at least you have a job,” you are an asshole.)

  Now, any job can be terrible – I don’t envy the person whose sole job it is to landscape a Disney Channel has-been’s pubic hair – but in the world of “pays me enough to stay, not enough to give a shit,” it does seem that barista-ing is just one of those things you’d be ashamed to admit to.

  I don’t know what it is. Maybe it’s going home smelling like rotten milk every day that just kind of wears you down. Then again, lots of jobs come with their own horrific odors that cling to every pore in your skin. Perhaps it’s the required bending over backward for sweaty ballsacks in business suits. However, I would hazard that most jobs have at least some element of disrespect involved, because human beings are terrible. Perchance it is a stifling, ancient bureaucracy that demands employee conformity while still desperately trying to appeal to a youthful demographic. But outdated shit heads trying desperately to seem relevant is a staple of our species – just look at the candidates of any given election (oh, sick burn!).

  It really is hard to impress on people just how skin-peelingly terrible being a coffee runner really is. But I see myself as a facilitator to my audience. Since I have a functioning brain and a memory that recalls events further than five years ago, I will dive into my past life as a member of this degraded occupational force. All of this so I can give you an appreciation for how little these people want to be there, let alone working on your unnecessarily complicated beverage.

  The following snippets are presented in inner monologue, otherwise known as the “I Wish I Had Said That” vision.

* * *

  “Oh, good. There are people waiting for the store to open. Standing around our door, impatiently checking their watches just in case they dozed off and that forty-five minutes before the store opens just slipped right on by. Could you please just move aside and let me... I have the fucking key! Move! It’ll just be NO YOU CAN’T COME IN WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU!?”

* * *

  “Wow. Pulling on the locked doors now? If you needed coffee that badly, there’s a gas station literally fifty feet to your left. Yes, it’s bad coffee. But have you ever tasted coffee? The difference between bad and good is just based on your tolerance for hot roasted death. When will you just realize...

  “... Ah, I get it: we’re your dealer. Ah ha ha, we’re your dealer, aren’t we? I mean, take away the basic amount of respect and fear a dealer gets with his or her clients and that’s this relationship right now. Christ, you’re two steps away from hurling one of our patio chairs through the window or offering sexual services to our staff in your desperation. That almost makes it...

  “... And now you’re tapping on the glass like we’re fucking fish in a tank. Lovely.”

* * *

  “Don’t get mad at me because I don’t know what your stupid special drink is. I have no idea what goes into your clusterfuck latte, and I can guarantee you that no one else does either. Just that one dipshit who you have an absurd relationship with. Probably one of those fuckers who’s always in a good mood, too.

  “How could you not know what goes into a drink you have every day? Could I just hand you a bucket of chemicals, call it your drink, and you’d just chug it without a second thought? That’s actually kind of a pleasant thought. I’m going to have to nurse that one while I call the store in bumblefuck at your insistence to verify what it is you throw down the cavernous hell-hole you call a mouth.”

* * *

  “I think you may be wrong. I’ve been doing this for almost a decade, so I think I know how to do my job. I think you’re an inconsiderate douchebag that probably should have planned around a ten minute stop at a popular coffee shop rather than leave late in the morning. But, then again, your huffiness may just convince me that I’m wrong.

  “It won’t, but hey, don’t stop trying, you gigantic spoiled child.”

* * *

  “You just said you wanted a coffee. What you ordered was not coffee. What you ordered is a fucking milkshake. I realize that your brain cells are atrophied from years of abuse, but a couple of neurons must have balked at what just happened.”

* * *

  “Are... are you going to, you know, watch your kids while you’re here? No? Just gonna let them... sneeze on the tables and break our products? Sweet.

  “I’m gonna find out where you live and leave some wild badgers unattended in your home. Oh, sure, you may protest that your children are somehow better than my wild badgers. I beg to differ: badgers tend to eat the sugar they knock over.”

* * *

  “Liar.

  “Liar, liar, liar, liarliarliar.

  “Goddamn it, I want to call you out on your shit so bad. You’re just bald-faced lying to me right now about how your drink was made wrong. Yes, I’m sure I accidentally made the specialty coffee you ordered as a specialty tea. Never mind the fact that I can literally smell the fucking coffee in there. Never mind that the tea has an odor so distinctive that you wouldn’t be able to leave the store without it choking your nostrils. Never mind that you drank a third of the thing before stopping and realizing something may have been amiss. No, I fucked up. You’re absolutely right.

  “Or, this happened: you bought your overpriced dessert-in-a-cup, went to the salon next door, got your hair done, and realized that you barely touched your beverage. And instead of coming in here and asking for it to be redone because you didn’t get to enjoy your drink – which I would have done gladly, mind you – you spin a lie about how I fucked up. Both would have resulted in the same situation, but this one makes me hate you on a visceral level.

  “I wish I could curse this drink. Make it so that the next time you tell the truth, no one believes you. Especially when it’s critical. And the official story is absolutely ludicrous because everyone knows you’re just a shitty liar.

  “At the scene of an accident: ‘You know, lying to an officer is a crime. I don’t buy that you braked for a cat crossing the street, causing the accident. I think the other story – the one about a flaming wiener dog sent from the skies telling you to wreck the car behind you – is far more plausible. Sure, the guy is clearly stoned off his ass, but I don’t like your stupid face.’

  “But I guess I do get to lie when I tell you to have a nice day, so there’s that.”

* * *

  “Wow. That middle age man is totally creeping on those teenagers. I’m just so fucking thrilled I get to be a part of this state of affairs.”

* * *

  “Hello, visibly self-conscious man. Ha ha, why yes, we do have funny names for things here. You are the first person to ever notice that. I should point that out at the next company meeting I’m ignored at. I’m sure top brass will want to know about your wry witticisms.

  “Sure, I’ll be happy to get your ‘whatever the hell you people call a cup of coffee awkward laugh.’ That in no way, shape, or form completely insults both my job and me. I mean, I know I’m not exactly high on the social ladder, but what does denigrating this place accomplish? You’re giving us your money, fuckwit. You can get coffee almost anywhere, but you chose to come here, and why?

  “I have a theory, sir: since your identity is so thoroughly dominated by your dick and your job, you feel de-masculinized by a society that no longer values what you are capable of producing. Therefore, you travel to places where people are contractually obligated to take your shit without the slightest ability to push back. You enjoy the feeling of domination that you get when you make your big, manly speeches about how you ‘don’t drink no girly coffee.’ But I bet you can’t even make eye contact with those you insist on belittling, can you?

  “Nnnnnnnnnnnope!”

* * *

  “Yup. Get it all out. Tell me I’m terrible and worthless and you’ll have my job. I’ve survived better than you, shit for brains. But you don’t know that. Yes, I bet you know the head of the company personally. I’m sure he’d love to take a moment from bathing in his millions to hear about one of his clerks forgetting to order more goddamn Sugar in the Raw. Allow me to say ‘I’m sorry’ a couple more times – I’m hoping that once I reach fifteen apologies, the pure weight of mea culpas will form a singularity and crush you with its infinite mass.

  “You do realize I’m letting you yell at me because this saves my manager from yelling at me, right? This isn’t really a victory for you. I’m actually just efficient. If you were less psychotic, I’d call other stores to see if they have stock. But after the third lawsuit threat, I’m not inclined to do anything but fantasize about a truck bursting through our front door and plowing right into you.”

* * *

  “Well, I smell like a cow’s rancid udder, but I’m free. All things considered, the day wasn’t too bad. You know... until I have to do it again tomorrow.

  “God. Damn. It.”

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