The Trickster Diaries/Chapter 36
It was assumed, because of my abilities as a visual artist, I’d have little difficulty making the floral patterns adorning the surface of a coffee beverage by ever so delicately jiggling steamed milk or soy into the mix.
It wasn’t so easy. None of it, in fact, was so easy.
This wasn’t Starbuck’s. This was an independently owned and operated family business—AJ had married the middle daughter/sister—and prided itself on following, quite strictly, in the hands-on Italian tradition: as little conveyer belt machinery as possible, max TLC, and if the customer so desired, or if we could read the customer well enough to suggest a little shaved, Fair Trade Belgium chocolate on top, it was our priviledge to make it happen. And, of course, tack on an extra $2.50.
After training for a few weeks on the afternoon/evening shift, David decided it was time to test my budding skills on a truer field of battle: mornings.
It was radically different. The line stretched from the counter to out the door to down the sidewalk beyond the view of the huge front window from 8AM to 10:30. And they didn’t just want a double non-fat soy latte to go but a toasted everything bagel w/butter, cream cheese on the side, plus a pound—a ground lb. on a slow drip cone filter setting for their niece, Naomi, in New Orleans—as well.
Many hung out at the five or six circular, four person tables inside, or outside under the three umbrella covered tables as Ella scatted or Chet Baker crooned.
It was hysterical—joyous, in a way—and very satisfying.
The next step up the coffeehouse ladder was learning how to take apart, clean, and reassemble the $35,000, three barista espresso machine.
David: You’re the only non-family member I trust to do this and you’ll probably get some backlash from Robin and whatshername, Lorraine’s sister, but…
Fairly intricate stuff. The backlash would come because, while working the closing shift—AJ roasting, me cleaning the espresso machine, Thelonius Monk doing his thing—Robin and whatshername cleaned the tables, washed the dishes, swept the floors, restocked the condiments, etc.. I would have traded, happily, but it was not within their realm of vision to see one duty equalling the other.
Robin quit the next day, but, according to Ingrid, Robin’s friend, it was because Robin thought ingrid liked me more than her.
Whatshername quit the day after because, according to Lorraine, I liked Lorraine more than I liked whatshername. “Is it true?” she asked.
“Well, yes. She’s so serious about everything.”
Lorraine: (Irish accent) I know. She’s the only one in my family who’s like that.
Lorraine: Hm what?
Me: So you don’t mind me doing what I do while you…
Lorraine: Of course not. It’s just a fookin’ job fur chrissakes.