Tales of a barista

April 1, 2008 at 9:25 am | Posted in Massholes, Starbucks | 2 Comments

Here’s a little treat that even I almost forget is part of my lengthy resume: once I was a barista. At the Coffee Grinder in Ketchum, Idaho. I had these romantic notions that I’d spend my early morning hours serving coffee to quirky locals who would become my friends, and then in my free afternoons I’d ski or, of course, write. Instead I had burned forearms from the antiquated espresso machine, a co-worker who was 18 with three kids and eventually was fired for breaking into the shop at night and stealing cash (for her meth habit, it turned out), dealt mostly with snippy “second-home owners” (including one who actually asked me to run her latte down to the hairdressers — she was in a hurry), and was too exhausted from getting up every morning at 4:30 to do anything in the afternoons but nap. The owner seemed legitimately perplexed that I utlimately would accept a full-time job at the newspaper– and then she was even angry (probably because I was the most reliable employee she’d ever had…)

I did learn a few things: how to make foam on a latte (whole milk works better). And that a master’s degree from a nice school gets you nowhere at 6:30 a.m. with a line of uncaffeinated (and mostly hungover) skiiers out the door. But being friendly helps a bit.

So, having worked in the trenches of the cranky and uncaffeinated, I like all this recent talk about how to bring Starbucks back its original success — creating the niche, neighborhood coffeeshop.  Here are a few suggestions.  Admittedly, I don’t actually drink Starbucks coffee — soy chai lattes are my super-yuppie preference — but even Tim, going against all Masshole stereotypes, prefers it over DD. When I was in Paris a few years ago, I was compelled to at least check out the Starbucks near the Odeon Metro stop (the neighborhood with which I’m most familiar). The clientele (this was in 2004) was mostly Japanese tourists (surprise?) and French teenagers. I couldn’t bring myself to order a drink (not sure how I would have ordered a “grande soy no water no foam chai in French” anyway). Regardless of how horrifying a Starbucks in Paris is to purists (including me!), I do love that I can walk into any airport, any mall, or any city and get my fix — walking around with that cup is like my adult security blanket. I know, I know, if I add up all the money I’ve spent there over the years I’m sure I could have a Birkin bag. But as I’ve said before: as far as vices go, it’s not so bad.

What compelled me to write this ode du Starbucks? My mother and I are embarking on 21 days without sugar.  So I’m drinking decaf tea from home in a travel mug, fighing the urge to run across the street and secure a hot, environmentally hazardous, cardboard cup of sugar and carbs. Bye-bye chais… for now…



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  1. You’re gonna fall off the wagon before your birthday, though, right? Lil Bug says she wants you hyper and thoroughly soused.

  2. Yeah, fortunately 21 days has me in the clear by May…

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