TITLE: April 12, 2018
By Robin West
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I raised a family, earned a college degree, and ran a successful business. A long string of events turned my world around and here I landed. I’m a 62-year-old barista in a global espresso chain. Even baristas get coffee breaks. Turning my face to the mid-morning sun, I breathe in fresh air and leave the hustle and clanging inside. Finding a free al fresco table, I plop down, prop my aching feet onto a chair, and open my library book.
The rest of the world comes here for breaks. Coffee time means more than breaks, however. Commuters line up for hours at the drive-through buying double lattes for a morning jump-start. Morning rush requires the fastest workers at the window. The manager posts me at the counter. I take orders for the more leisurely guest inside. Most customers are polite, but there’s always some princess who changes what she wants once she tastes her triple, venti, soy, no-foam and accuses me of screwing up her order. Or some jackwagon who reads off a list of twenty drinks, each complexly different, then fails to tip.
Each day I don my black slacks, matching polo shirt and sneakers to work with a bunch of 20-somethings who wonder how an old lady entered their midst. Even though I can work circles around a couple of these slugs, everyone perceives me as the slowest because I have gray hair.
Some of the girls get snarky with me for no apparent reason. It stings, but when my thoughts turn to judgment, I remember how I behaved when I was 20-something. Back than, my gray haired co-worker was Margaret, and I never gave her a break. Colleagues asked why I hated her, since she was so nice. But she had said one thing, one time, that I deemed unforgiveable. I can’t even remember what it was. Looking back, I realize people surrounding me offered oodles of opportunities for offence, and I remained friends with them. However, I had a quiver full of toxic arrows, and Margaret, in her singular status, provided a safe target for me to shoot those arrows.
An hour ago, Amber bumped my arm and spilled hot mocha on my shirt. She shot me a “watch-it” look, as though I had carelessly run into her instead of the other way around. I should feel relieved Amber isn’t as mean as I was. In the same situation, years ago, I might’ve shredded Margaret with curses. I wonder if Margaret ever hoped I would be in her shoes someday.
The dark roast I’m sipping warms me from the inside out, and the sun warms the pages of my novel. The author writes of the ocean-sprayed Shetland Island, a chilling setting warmed with elegant prose and compelling characters. For a few minutes, the espresso shop disappears while I visit this land in another time. Before the chapter ends and my cup empties, coffee break is over. I return to my post, refreshed from my mini-vacation.
The other workers are still busy, but less harried since the morning rush is over. Amber sees me, sneers, and slips out of her apron. It’s her turn for break. She grabs her smokes from the storeroom, bumps me on her way out, and mutters, “It’s about time.”
Yes, it stings, but I hope she never wears these shoes.
A surly looking man approaches holding a long crumpled list. I flash my best smile. “What can I help you with today?”
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