Conversations With Baristas

The 6:43 a.m. Saturday conversations with baristas are the best conversations to have with baristas.

Most of the morning crowd is still stretching and reading headlines in bed.

Those who are here? There is a man sleeping in the leather chair in the middle of the shop. I guess if you’re going to sleep in a leather chair in a coffee shop, it might as well be the one right in the middle of everything.

Another sits in the corner, staring blankly into the distance, his headphones having teleported him elsewhere. The waters of Key West? The playgrounds of fifth grade? The beers with old buddies at the rock quarry?

A third man, the one in sweats and a baseball cap, stares intently at the screen of the laptop on the table before him. He stares, leans back, leans forward again, types frantically, leans back, looks out the window several minutes—and he’s been doing this since about 2011.

It’s either the world’s worst dissertation of the world’s best novel.

Two baristas lean against the counter, arms folded, chatting, waiting for the next espresso to walk in the door.

As I cross the floor, the first barista, Jeremy, is already reaching for my big mug—they only have two big mugs, now that Corporate has phased it out in favor of paper cups (about three years ago). Whenever a new barista is in training, one of the veteran baristas explains that it’s not on the keypad in front of them, so don’t bother. “Jeff is the only customer who asks for it and,” reaching under the counter, “it’s right here.”

It used to be somewhat of a frantic search for a clean one. A glance under the counter, the moving of silverware holders behind the bakery display—or was it in the kitchen? Hey, check the kitchen! But Jeremy has had the Saturday 6 a.m. shift for quite some time now, so it’s already under the espresso spout as I approach the counter.

The barista running the drive-thru, Sarah, adjusts her headset, then reaches for the oatmeal. She knows, too, that it’s the blueberries, oats, and almonds. None of that brown sugar mix for the 50-year-old blood sugars of the world.

As they work, “Santa Baby” comes on over the speakers. Without even making eye contact, and while still staring at the machines and cannisters that are their world, they both begin shaking their heads slowly.

It’s November 19.

“You guys are killing me with this stuff, you know that, right?” I say.

Sarah drops a scoop of almonds into the cup. “I woke up the other night, this exact song in my head. Santa baby. I didn’t even want to look at the clock. I didn’t want to know. I feared what I might have done.”

“What’s it been, two weeks of this already?” I ask.

“13 days, 6 hours, 43 minutes, 57 seconds,” says Jeremy with a snarky smirk.

“I love that special Corporate touch, where it’s two or three holiday songs, then about five alleged hits of 2007,” I say. “And just when you’re checking the refill date on your bottle of Prozac, they sneak some Smash Mouth in on you.”

Sarah winces. “I swear, if Smash Mouth were to walk in here today, or any day, I would, indeed, smash them in the mouth.

Nobody doubts Sarah.

The tats, the nose ring, the streak of purple in her hair. There is no guessing with Sarah. Sarah’s the kid who announces the only real Christmas gift she wants is a gift certificate to the tattoo parlor. At 15. And her Dad already has the checkbook out, asking the name of the parlor.

I briefly envision a Super Hero-like right hook from Sarah crashing onto the collective jaws of Smash Mouth, and with such force that not only does a shitty lyric never again leave their lips, they’re forced to drink their pumpkin spice lattes out of straws the rest of their creative lives.

Then, still lost in my head, I see Sarah ripping off her apron, tossing it on the counter, and storming out.

Through the drive-thru window. That’s where Sarah exits, stage right.

“Yeah, Smash Mouth single-handedly ruined the Major League all-star game for me once,” I say. “And that was what, 16, 17 years ago? Fenway Park. I had to leave the living room, gather myself. Smash Mouth, Joe Buck. Thank God that drama king Curt Schilling was getting shelled or I might have turned it off entirely.”

Their blank stares remind me this generation is not a generation of baseball fans.

Jeremy sets my Americano on the counter. “Still another month to go!” he says, an overly cheery, first-pump sort of voice that perfectly mocks the gravity of the situation.

I love baristas.

Not the grumpy ones, no, nor the ones who clearly are counting the days—and started counting six months ago. Jobs can suck sometimes—I get it, and I have had them. The baristas I love are the ones with the blank stares as they pour their 76th latte of the day while lost in thoughts of rent payments, Psych 201 papers, or the 20-year-old frat boy who still hasn’t called.

“This same holiday playlist has played since I started here, and that was what, five years ago?” says Jeremy. “And the weird thing about it is that every now and then, they actually sneak in a song I like, and now I’m just so very confused.

Jeremy can be a bit animated—could be a drama major, not sure. If not, he probably should be. “I’m like, ‘Oh. My. God! Do I have terrible taste in music?!’

I sip from my mug. “It’s a moment for you, isn’t it Jeremy.”

His eyes come down from the ceiling; he throws a left hand on his hip, and turns to look at me with this sort of matter-of-fact stiffening of his neck. “I do become very introspective about it,” he says.

I imagine turning the television on again someday, to a sitcom entitled “Jeremy.” And enjoying it very much.

Sarah has looked up from her phone, where she has Googled “lame 90s bands” and now begins reading from the list. “Ricky Martin! I swear, if Ricky Martin walked in here right now, I would punch him in the throat.”

I turn away from the counter, oatmeal and big favorite mug in hand, laughing, heading toward my own laptop. “Jeremy, make sure Sarah doesn’t get too close to the drive-thru window.”baristas

Jeremy turns to Sarah and flips his right hand at her. “You’d probably only break an ankle anyway.”

“Mild sprain at best, are you kidding me?” she says, not even looking up from her phone. “I’d have to work the next morning.”

I sit down, looking out my own window, reminded that I need to check in with my other favorite barista. Jared, at the shop a couple of blocks from my house.

You know, the one whose dream is to fire-roast his own beans over an open campfire behind his Yurt.

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Latest Comments

  1. Lorenzo de Baja says:

    Excellent, as always!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Melinda Thomas Hansen says:

    “not only does a shitty lyric never again leave their lips, they’re forced to drink their pumpkin spice lattes out of straws the rest of their creative lives.” Smirk and chuckle. 🙂

    Liked by 4 people

  3. Casey says:

    I have baristas like yours! Life is so much better when someone’s already making your usual when you walk in. 🙂

    Liked by 4 people

  4. George F. says:

    Much of great writing is making the mundane interesting. Good job!

    Liked by 3 people

  5. Redhead In Love says:

    A delightful read, it reminds of the little coffee shop I frequented in college; I have momentarily been transported away from my boring day job and back to my early morning espresso and Sociology study sessions. Thank you.

    Liked by 4 people

  6. mrmeaning says:

    Damn. That’s good. You should get paid for that. It makes me ashamed of my own poor blog, which I’m going to shamelessly mention anyway:
    https://soothfairy.wordpress.com

    Liked by 4 people

  7. jaimieweb says:

    Baristas are amazing they help me with my work week.

    Liked by 3 people

  8. kaileyhuffaker says:

    From a Barista perspective, this was a really interesting read on a regular’s visit. It took me back to the old man that used to visit our coffee shop and get the same extra hot non fat mocha. He passed away not too long ago, but this made me think of him and smile. Thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 9 people

  9. Taka Income says:

    Even in 2005 I was a barista also. After reading your post..it suddenly makes me remember my happy moments.
    Tq for the post. I just launched a new blog about Outsourcing work.
    http://takaincome.com

    Liked by 3 people

  10. Selma P. Verde says:

    There is a different story everyday in a coffee shop. Almost a daily writing prompt. You described it well in your post.

    Liked by 5 people

  11. Mommy runs blog says:

    You are amazing! Love it!

    Liked by 6 people

  12. Quinn says:

    Hey now, you’re an all star….!

    Liked by 4 people

  13. sbhopper8 says:

    I hope Smash Mouth doesn’t start their day with coffee and WordPress 😉

    Liked by 3 people

  14. aroralillian says:

    This was such a great read! Connects to me so much as I am a barista! Made me smile 🙂

    Liked by 4 people

    • Jeff Riley says:

      I felt I had officially arrived as a human being the other day when I was walking down the street and another barista — this one from another coffee shop, from another town — spotted me and said, “Hey, dude. Whatsup!” 🙂 (I may have a coffee problem, not sure.)

      Liked by 5 people

  15. adventurefoodwine says:

    I love how this blog reads like a novel. It transports me to your time and place. If you ever wrote a book with short stories like this, I’d buy!

    Liked by 3 people

  16. Alyssa Camille says:

    Barista’s: Not all hero’s wear capes.

    Liked by 3 people

  17. Pingback: Skyla Spencer
  18. anoushkavail says:

    Wow! This is a great post. I go to Starbucks ALL the time but the introvert inside of me hasn’t found the confidence to actually talk to a barista😂

    Liked by 3 people

  19. Kristina Steiner says:

    What a great story. It made me want to get some coffee – and I’m not even a huge fan of it.

    Liked by 3 people

  20. momnomsweb says:

    Aaah, the art that is coffee! I plan on doing a coffee series soon on my food blog. Just love my barista buddies. Artists. Pure and simple!!

    Liked by 3 people

  21. avolovers says:

    Oh dear, you are such a good writer! I felt like I’m there with you.
    Ok, Im going to get myself a cup of coffee from my favorite coffee shop.

    Liked by 2 people

  22. jesuisniki says:

    Thanks so much for this killer post! I work as a barista at a Caribou and I love it so much! This made me laugh and appreciate my job even more! I love our regulars, regulars make the day awesome! 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  23. athinsliceofcake says:

    Made me smile, the good regulars make me smile

    Liked by 2 people

  24. Dashin' Ash says:

    Everything I’ve read on your blog so far has made me feel alive. As someone who works behind a counter it’s hard to see that the guests aren’t thinking of me as a robot… Thank you for making us human again.

    Liked by 3 people

  25. chloeskye12 says:

    Very entertaining. Easy to identify with the personalities 🙂 Enjoy that Americano!

    Liked by 3 people

  26. ibetraveler says:

    I love it.. it was amazing ❤️

    Liked by 1 person

  27. davechrispcomedy says:

    What a cracking post! Brightened up an otherwise grey bus journey!

    Liked by 2 people

  28. nickel says:

    This was an exzellent read. Thank you and greetings from the other side of the pond!

    Liked by 2 people

  29. wholetthepeasout says:

    I worked in a coffee shop and this is so accurate, it’s also an Amazon feeling getting to know the regulars and having their order ready! Unless of course they fancy a change! https://wholetthepeasout.wordpress.com/2017/02/15/golfing-with-zebra/

    Liked by 2 people

  30. Apricots and Cream says:

    Aaw this made me feel all warm and cozy inside 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  31. Anna says:

    Love your story, i have a favorite coffee shop and always make time to chat with barista.

    Liked by 2 people

  32. Anna says:

    Also great imagery happening here. It’s like i can see it all playing out.

    Liked by 2 people

  33. Dan says:

    I love that I feel like time stops as I read this and I’m there waiting in line for a coffee with you! Thanks!

    Liked by 2 people

  34. chaosofthemuse says:

    This was beautiful to read 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  35. claudchainz says:

    This was so soothing

    Liked by 2 people

  36. Jason Moody says:

    Ha! Love your writing style. I think we’ve all met your characters at some point.

    Liked by 2 people

  37. Basia says:

    Excellent! I’m a barista, so I know how that small talk can change your humour 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  38. aspiringherbalist says:

    As an ex-barista of a drive through coffee shop, I can definitely appreciate this post! I had most drinks started by the time customers arrived at the window, had many conversations, and could probably, to this day, 10-15 year later, still tell you the drink certain people ordered, but might not be able to remember their name. Oh, the life of coffee and the reliance of having a seasoned barista to make it! Great post!

    Liked by 2 people

  39. inkkjunkie says:

    Wow. All I can say is that I love to write. Writing and telling stories are my passion. Yet, despite how much I love to write, I struggle to find writing I love to read. The second I started reading this, I had to read it to the end. Your story pulled me in. It made me smile and made me appreciate baristas more (if that’s even possible because they basically save my day almost every morning.) Thank you for writing this, you just made my stressful week a little less stressful.

    Liked by 2 people

  40. Let's read says:

    I love this ..Your descriptions are beautiful .. This actually transported me to a warm coffee shop with infectious music playing and the normal warm chaos of people talking and laughing.
    ~Good morning 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  41. Lhakpad says:

    So delighted, it reminds me of the cafe I used to visit where roasted coffee smell were all over the room yet to the street.

    Liked by 2 people

  42. Train Today to Reap Tomorrow says:

    By reading I felt I am at my local Coffee Barista.

    Liked by 2 people

  43. Bernice says:

    Beautiful post. So real, I’m almost there with you.

    Liked by 3 people

  44. inspireyourzen says:

    Love this! I used to own a coffee house and oh so enjoyed my customers☕️☕️☕️☕️☕️

    Liked by 2 people

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