Dear customer, now that I have been candid, I will also be vulnerable.
I’m terrified you’ll find out I don’t know your name. You remember mine – an awesome compliment. And yes, I remember we met in that one class. But when you order a coffee, which doesn’t require a name, rather than a pumpkin spice latte, which does, I am profoundly relieved.
But if you do order a latte and look even vaguely Caucasian, I will cross my fingers and write something vaguely resembling “Caitlin ” on your cup. I tell you, I have my fingers on the pulse of whatever baby names were trending among 1990s Irish Catholics, and Caitlin tops the charts. I will also be worried for you, because the amount of syrup that goes into pumpkin spice lattes fills about one quarter of the cup – that’s a lot of sugar, sugar.
But, dear customer, you are an enthusiastic pumpkin spice latte drinker. So you join the line that winds out the door. And, truthfully, I love that you are committed.
I used to be shaken by immense pressure that squeezes the baristas when the line gets long. It’s demanding, to be able to recall the countless small, but vital details about the process of preparing any given drink – let alone as quickly as possible! Students need to get to class and football fans want to head to Tailgateland, and most of you come to Starbucks because we are super fast. But now that I can recognize the sound of milk that’s correctly steamed (it really does sound a certain way,) now that I can identify a well-poured cappuccino by its heft in my palm, I’ve come to regard working at this cafÃ© as one of the most rejuvenating and grounding things I do here at Notre Dame. I’m on my feet and talking to people, not sitting at a desk and staring at a computer screen. I’ve mastered tangible things, rather than half-scanning through text on abstract concepts, wondering how I will ever apply them. I do things with my hands rather than my intellect and, best of all, I get the chance to make you smile in the process. Or at least to help you wake up enough that someone else can make you smile.
By the time my shift ends, the wrinkles in my hands have taken on the aroma of coffee. That’s definitely one of my favorite things about the job. But another, dear customer, is you.
Keep it coming.
All of the hottest, blackest and