One way or another

coffee shop I work at

When I am melancholy, or weary, or simply stressed I find myself escaping to the coffee shop I work at. Under normal circumstances I would not recommend turning one’s workplace into a kind of sanctuary. I’ve worked plenty of other jobs by now to know the workplace is often the center of stress, the place where one considers jumping off a cliff, rather than a place of happiness… But the coffee shop I work at is in fact unique. My pet name for the shop is Rachel Café, or House of Rachel and this name is highly suitable, I find.

I know the life stories of my workers right down to their mannerisms and accents and I also have an attachment to the customers who visit… It is a bit like the Cheers theme song “Where Everybody Knows Your Name,” but not completely, of course. We do serve coffee, after all, not beer. I also find the job thrilling because I work with incredibly interesting people. We have a field herper on staff and a former librarian from Albania and a boy who rocks out for Jesus on his guitar. Our customers are just as eccentric and lovable. Many will play trivia with me before I give them their drink, or will ask, “How are you?” with genuine concern each day. And the truth is, I will go far to make customers love the café as much as I do.

Last night I gave a customer an extra teabag (no charge) “for later” because I knew he needed it (who doesn’t need Earl Grey?). If someone isn’t satisfied with their drink, I will make them anything on the menu with specific customizations until that person is delighted. Of course, if someone is rude my attitude changes swiftly and I tell them, “You need to leave. Your negativity is ruining my positive energy. Take your sorry self to Starbucks.” Actually, I haven’t used these words yet… I am saving them for the day I stop caring about customer service or keeping my job.

Last week my coworker brought in a mix CD for us to listen to and suddenly a Blondie song came on. K informed me, “I put on this song just for you.” You see, “Blondie” has become a nickname my coworkers call me. And no, I don’t mind being called it. I have blond hair, I get it. This is the song she selected:

Perhaps this will sound childish to some of you but here was someone who had put a song on a mix CD in my honor. I felt touched; I knew that song will always be associated with this specific memory and I didn’t really know how to respond, except to sing along to the lyrics and dance.

And yes, sometimes dancing at work is necessary.

Looking for my dream coffee shop

I live in a city that prides itself on its many coffee shops. Coffee shop culture is very much so alive in my city and yet, I haven’t been able to find my ideal coffee shop. I’ve been brainstorming about what this fantasy place would look like and feel like and what it would feature. Here are the top three characteristics my dream coffee shop must have:

  • Coffee ShopFree wireless with top speed. Also, many power outlets for convenience. I’m a student and frequent user of the Internet. Therefore, I bring my laptop with me and need wireless on the go. Luckily, most coffee shops in town feature free wireless. However, there are the vile few who charge for wireless. These are the coffee shops that consistently lose my business.
  • Quality drinks and quality baristas. These two should go hand in hand. If I’m going to pay an overpriced sum for a drink, then my expectation is the drink had better be good. I’ve worked as a coffee barista at several locations now. I know what it takes to make a perfect latte, mocha, cappuccino, espresso, americano, etc. I expect the barista to know what I know and to care enough about each drink to make it with the highest attention to detail.
  • Ambience and presence. This combination can be tricky to achieve. I don’t even know if I can accurately describe it. Every coffee shop I go to carries its own atmosphere and tone. When I walk inside, I immediately get a feel for the place. For example, when I enter a Starbucks café the following words come to mind: overly commercial, trendy, predictable, corporate, machine. I never feel cozy at a Starbucks. (Unless, of course, it’s 4 am in the morning and I’ve just fallen asleep in front of their fireplace due to sleep depravation.) I also can’t feel comfortable when they’ve coined their ridiculous terminology and have no problem serving foamy lattes. (For those of you who don’t know – a latte should not have foam.) I prefer the ambience of more local, independently owned coffee shops. These coffee shops tend to be driven by love and creativity rather than a pre-calculated business formula. This usually leaves room for spontaneity and the feeling of entering the coffee shop less traveled. At the moment a coffee shop that does this very well is The Drowsy Parrot.

Other requirements for my dream coffee shop, include:

  • Comfy chairs, roomy tables, plush seating.
  • A menu with a wide variety of drink selections.
  • Late hours – of course, the ideal being open 24 hours.
  • Fair Trade selection of coffees and teas.
  • Tasty, varied baked good options to go with drinks. Also, freshly made is important. I know a lot of coffee shops merely thaw out their food the night before. I prefer fresh baked goodness.