February 28, 2011

A Barista By Any Other Name

If I were half the barista I projected, I might also be a barista right now. It has to be said that I'm not, I think, in so far as I don't actually work at a coffee bar right now. I am, instead, paid to sell discounted books, and to try and maintain something resembling order while doing so.

But even still, I think of myself in those terms. And there is something to be said for self definition, the ability of a person to say who and how they are. Is it so simple as that? Am I a barista because I label myself as such?

On some level, I hope so. I did just write a long-ish piece called "Me the Barista". Thanks to Roast Magazine, it's easily the most read thing I've written since my University newspaper days. So I feel like I ought to be a barista, if only because a lot of people read a piece in which I call myself one.

But what I feel is not always what I think. And though I feel like a barista, I don't think I am. Simply, if one does not work behind a coffee bar, if one does not make coffee for a living, then one cannot be a barista. This may seem overly-prescriptive, but I think it's just minding a fair bit of technicality. No matter how much I might like basketball, say, and the playing thereof, I am not a pro hoopster unless employed as such. So it is with coffee. I like it, yes. I know it as well. But as of right now, no one is paying me to make it. Therefore, despite that affection, there is not the needed tangible object at which it must be directed.

A week or so ago, this did not concern me. There were jobs to be had, and I would get them. I assumed the first, and the latter as well. I am nothing if not confident in my abilities. But time has passed, and neither assumption has proven true. First of all, there really aren't that many barista gigs to be had in Lawrence. It is the sort of job people tend to hang on to, and that is precisely what people are doing right now. But of course, I only needed one job to be open, if indeed I could simply have my choice. As it turns out, however, I am not quite God's gift to barista-dom, and therefor, not an automatic hire for anyone seeking help.

So it is about a week and a half since I've steamed milk. I feel a growing sense of something that might be trepidation that this stretch, which I had assumed would be quite brief, may not be. I enjoy the job, first of all, to such an extent that I've begun to define myself by it. There is this blog too. The majority of what I wrote here was inspired by events at work, or at least musing had while working. Without that, my muse is diminished.

But I am optimistic still, some might say arrogant. I still believe I'm a very good barista, and I believe that others will believe it too. I will see the carafe half full.

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