We all come to a point in life called reality- forced upon us by graduation and being thrust out into the big bad world, where we wonder the weight of our worth. It’s the bit where we start having to put down on paper just what it is we can do, and why it is we should be hired. The soul-grinding task of writing a CV includes a subtle recipe of weeping over how much blank space is visible, and reiterating what a patient, virtuous barista you are. The extent of my CV includes the basics- graduated from college, makes a good cup of Joe, and pretty good at folding napkins.
But what that CV didn’t hold, was the coffee grains behind the job title. Food crusted dishes, thirsty queues, and the regulars. They were a breed of their own, and ranged from businessman, to stroller hauling yummy mummies and the drooling elderly, with a handful of certified nutters thrown in. Take Phil, the building’s theatrical director and his wet, extra hot, no foam, one and a half shots latte. Which he continued to inform me of every time he ordered thrice daily. But I figure it can’t be that bad as he keeps coming back. The joys and wonders of working in the café. There’s a certain power that falls on the shoulders of even the kindest baristas, it’s a mantra something to the effect of- don’t be rude to me, I make your coffee. And I will stoop to serving you the bitterest cup of gruel you’ve ever gulped. It’s reassuring.
No one’s all too keen to work in the café upstairs, because you can’t get wifi unless you dance on one leg and hold your phone in the air. By which point boss man has probably already spotted you and shot some fierce stink eye in your direction. Not to mention the injury inducing dishwasher, either a menacing block of sharp metal, or a strategic way to get sent home early. There’s a huge wall of window up in the café, to remind you that you’re in Scotland. That’s because every time you walk by, it looks like different day outside. Sun to hail to thunder back to sun, to balmy autumn. The café has a large deli counter, and it’s a perpetual stare down with the pastries (and the cookies, and the cupcakes, and the scones…). I usually lose. But it’s alright; I eat them afterwards to assert my dominance. Some cakes you can at least pretend are good for you, the ones with walnuts and raisins. Others you can’t even try to fool yourself. The gym is just next-door, so the amount of tray bake I consume during my shift directly correlates with the necessity of a post-waitressing gym sesh.
- One-three bites of tray bake- walk it off on your way home
- Four-seven bites of tray bake- nothing you can’t solve with a kettlebell and squats
- Eight plus- spin starts at 6.30 sharp, be there, sweating, tray bake in tow
This evening I was down in the restaurant, and working with Crisanto- a lanky, extravagant, medical student from Northern Ireland training to be a plastic surgeon. Crisanto was as charming as he was gay- he once met a man from Paris, who proceeded to fly him out for a visit, and they spent the weekend drinking red wine in jazz bars. I’ve stopped asking him what he’s up to on the weekends, a cautionary measure for maintaining my own sense of worth. Today he was moaning about failing all five of his exams- I guess Paris takes its toll. But I shouldn’t be talking, in two years he’ll be making thirty times more than any amount I can even conceive of. This is the same guy who dropped an entire tray of full champagne glasses on graduation day lunch service, onto the graduate.
After sixteen plus months of arduous waitressing, you quickly learn which glasses you can break, and how to subtly dispose of the evidence. Boss man’s got a soft spot and a half for port, so you break one of his pretty little glasses and he’ll go bonkers. However drop a scummy branded half pint that he’s been trying for years to replace, and you’re next in line for a raise. You also learn that there’s a fine line between friendly customers, and over-friendly customers. But perhaps they’re not to fault, and it’s merely a mirroring of the friendly, and over-friendly waitress. In which case I need to get my lines sorted pronto. As my inbox is filled with greetings from friendly Mike and Gill, a table of mine some three months back who regularly send me family photos. And to think they only left ten percent.