March 27, 2012

Why I'm Glad to be Baristing

It occurred to me tonight that I'm lucky. It's hard not to feel this way, when reading a piece in Outside Online, discussing shark attacks. I'm quite happily a Kansan, and thus not likely to become dinner for a giant fish. (Though some perspective is worthwhile here: We've nearly eaten them to extinction, whereas they consume only several of us a year.) The Great Plains, after all, lack Great Whites. Happily.

But this is not about sharks, and my not being eaten by them. Nor is it about the nice weather, or the pleasant runs it has afforded me. No, this is about coffee. Because this is always about coffee. And it is about something human as well: Validation.

I went to work today, and so did many other people. It was Monday, and so you might expect the usual cavalcade of begrudging hello's and bleary-eyed nods. Kansas just made the Final Four, after all, and this was the first day back from Spring Break for KU students. I thought that many people would simply not show up, and that those who did might wish they were elsewhere.

But not only was business steady, it was downright pleasant. I was told, more times than I can specifically recall, that I was appreciated, and that the service I provided was something like a godsend. Ultimately, I think this is what people want from work, and from life in general. They want to feel needed, liked, and as I mentioned before, validated.

This is bordering on mushy, and so I'll try and be careful. However, it does need to be said that I, and probably many other baristas, are uniquely lucky in this regard. How many other jobs can one do, and be told on a daily basis that you and your work are valued? Too few, probably. And yet we, who are privileged enough to hang out at a coffee bar and get payed for it, are also praised for it.

There are few things as pleasurable as a good cup of coffee. I know that, and I understand how important such pleasures can be in an otherwise ho-hum morning. And there is something to be said for community as well - indeed, I have said a lot about if before. But mostly, for now, I'm just saying that I'm lucky. People spend lives searching for validation, for people to tell them that they matter and are, by whatever standard, good enough. I've found a job that gives me that, and a virtually non-existent risk of shark attack.

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