Not really, but I came across this quote of his and it made me think some thoughts and feel some feels.
“We have bigger houses but smaller families,
more conveniences, but less time.
We have more degrees, but less sense
more knowledge, but less judgement
more experts, but more problems
more medicines, but less healthiness.
We’ve been all the way to the moon and back
but have trouble crossing the street to meet the neighbor.
We built more computers to hold more information
to produce more copies than ever…
but have less communication.
We have become long on quantity but short on quality.
These are fast times of fast foods but slow digestion.
Tall man but short character.
Steep profits but shallow relationships.
It is a time where there is much in the window
but nothing in the room.”
- The 14th Dalai Lama
Nearly two months ago I broke my pinky toe in a freak walking accident. (For detailed Instagram pictures of the bruising, please email me.) Two weeks later I retired my cutoffs and floppy barista hats for a fulltime job at a magazine.
Note: These things are not related, other than the fact that now I’m an editor with a slightly-still-broken toe and a box full of hats.
And somewhere in the middle of all this, my parents called to tell me my childhood dog died. I cried. I cried for hours. I was 200 miles away and the liquids just kept pouring from my face. That night I did a shot of Jameson in Huey‘s name. It’s what he would have wanted. Well, that’s what I told the bartender at least.
Because — and say it with me everyone — when it rains, it pours.
Luckily, my toe will heal and Huey will be reincarnated. In the meantime — in case you come looking for me — I’ll be back on the bloodied rungs of the New York City media ladder making less money, working more and buying terrible coffee. But I’ll have weekends off and my hands will be soft! And hopefully after three topsy turvy post-grad years I’ll be back on track with all that long-term-goal nonsense.
But who knows, right? Weirder things have happened.
This is a picture of a dog with a cast because I broke my toe. Naturally.
From the other side of the counter, I can see it all. In no particular order, here’s a dollop of what I’ve learned from over a year of barista-ing in New York City.
- MOST PEOPLE ARE GREAT: The majority of the people in the world are Grade-A human beings. (I’ve conducted a thorough study.) More often than not, customers will tell you if you’ve accidentally given them too much change. They’ll return forgotten shopping bags, dropped wallets, and they’ll tip – even when the latte you’ve handed them looks like a recently-erupted volcano. These people are the reason you get out of bed before the sun does.
- COFFEE IS ART: Like in every trade, coffee is best when it’s made by someone with extensive knowledge and training. Like artists, real baristas don’t press buttons.
- EVERYONE LOVES FLEETWOOD MAC AND HALL & OATES: Old people, young people, white people, Asian people, hipsters and gangsters — people love these bands because they’re familiar. That really exclusive indie album you’ve been dying to play? The one nobody has heard before? Oh yeah, that will flop miserably. But “Private Eyes” and “Go Your Own Way” are guaranteed to bring the house down. People will sing along and they’re most definitely going to dance. Prepare yourself.
- THIS IS WHY YOU’RE FAT: I beg you, please put down the sugar. Oh man, for the love of God, just try it before you dump garbage into it. Please? For me? For your bathing suit? Oh, it’s OK because you got it with skim milk. My bad, carry on.
- SILENCE IS GOLDEN: Unless someone starts chatting you up first, verbal interactions should be as brief as possible. Nothing is as unnerving as when a stranger asks you how your day is going when you’ve literally just rolled out of bed. Inside they’re yelling “OH MY GAH JUST SHUT UP AND HAND ME MY COFFEE. COFFEE, YES!” Keep things quick and easy. Anyone who enjoys small talk is not to be trusted. Throw croissants at them.
- ESPRESSO IS NOT SCARY: There is a lot more caffeine in a large cup of drip coffee than there is in espresso drinks. When people come in acting all dramatic and exhausted and loudly announce: “Oh man, I’m going to need a LARGE latte THIS morning!” nobody is impressed. And even worse, the huge cup of milk you just spent $4.00+ on is just that. A whole lot of milk.
- DAYS START EARLY: It’s easy to forget when you’re young, unemployed, or just plain lazy how early most of the world gets up. But after being a barista, I realize how much you can fit into a day when you wake up at 6:15 in the morning. The early bird really does get the worm… and the baked goods. Those always sell out by the afternoon.
- WHITE IS A BAD IDEA: You will get dirty. You will get sweaty. White leaves no room for you to hide your shame. That, and espresso is a beeotch to get out.
- NOBODY WILL TELL YOU WHEN YOU HAVE SOMETHING ON YOUR FACE: I can’t even count how many times I’ve chatted casually with people while I had globs of milk in my eyebrows or coffee grinds all over my face. Nobody wants to be the one to say, “Uh, you’ve got shit… everywhere…”. As a general rule, if people smile sheepishly or stare at you for longer than they usually do, it’s not because you’re looking hot in your new fedora. You’re probably covered in shmutz. Go find a mirror
- PEOPLE ARE CREATURES OF HABIT: People know what they like and they like what they know. If your large extra-hot cappuccino aint broke, don’t fix it. That, and most people don’t like to gamble in the morning.
- SOME PEOPLE ARE TERRIBLE: For roughly every 50 people you serve, at least one of them is bound to suck. These people will not make eye contact with you. They will mumble their complicated order while texting and then lose their mind when you don’t get it right. “Um, is this sooooyyy?” They will ask you, exasperated by your incomprehensible stupidity. Other times, these people are the ones who don’t hand you their money. They throw it on the counter, purposely avoiding your outstretched hand. Some people will try to steal, try to swindle you and haggle over prices. These people are terrible, but they’re not everyone.
The following is a gchat conversation between me and my brother.
My younger brother is in the process of getting his Ph.D in materials science at Johns Hopkins, and I’m, well…. not. Luckily we have the same sense of humor, because often we have no idea what the other person is talking about. (See today’s gchat conversation, for example.) Curse him for getting both sides of the brain!
(Please ignore spelling/grammar errors.)
‘You’re right,’ he finally said. ‘You aren’t living a good story.’
‘That’s what I was saying.’
‘I see,’ he said.
‘What do I do about that?’
‘You’re a writer. You know what to do.’
‘No, I don’t.’
Jordan looked at me with his furrowed brow again. ‘You put something on the page,’ he said. ‘Your life is a blank page. You write on it.’
- Donald Miller, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years