May 14, 2012

Coffee at the End of The World

This is a hard thing to write about, both in the way you're thinking about, and in that other way too. It's hard because it's abstract, and the words are difficult to grasp. And it's hard because it involves feelings and stuff, and well, I'm a 23 year old guy, and we don't talk about feelings and stuff. What we do is smile, joke, and say things that shockingly undersell whatever emotional significance a given moment might have.

We say "Good luck with life," and we mean it, but more than that. A lot more.

Let me back up a second, or a few months, or a year, in some cases. The bar I manage is not on campus, technically, but only technically. It's across the street from the KU art museum, and I could throw a rock to class buildings, if I didn't throw like an 8 year old. But I do, so no, a rock isn't getting there, but a lot of students do manage to make the journey. The majority of our business isn't these kids, but a lot of it is. Enough that it's pretty significant financially, but also in other ways, which is were we get to the hard part, the stupid sappy part.

I saw quite a few of those kids at least 100 times, which isn't that much, maybe, in the grand scheme, but what grand scheme is that anyway? I've talked to them a lot, about life and things, and hopefully made that better with coffee. I've poured pretty milk designs, and they've tipped me, bought my food and boosted my ego. It's been a pretty great relationship, both parties benefitting, which is why I like this job in the first place. People like you when you make them their coffee, so long as you're not a total dick about it.

But this is May, which means a lot of those kids are done now, and they're supposed to go not be kids anymore. It's a weird thing, that period of time, and I'm living in it right now. I'm 23, basically 24, trying to become a pretty good regional trail runner, while living out my barista dreams. It's all pretty damn cool, precisely because I still feel like a kid every day. I make coffee and run up hills, which, to be clear, is pretty fucking sweet.

Maybe they've got that to look forward to, or something like it. I don't know, and I won't, but I do know that I won't see many of them ever again. I would know this no matter what, but cognitive dissonance is a pretty powerful thing, and while I would know that fact, I would never really feel it, never really care. But when they come to say goodbye? Then you know. Then you feel it, because they're right there, making you feel it. They're twisting that dagger in your chest, smiling, telling you how you helped them this year, how you were like a friend or something, and damn, it's all pretty hard to stand and listen to. You want to diffuse it all, to say that you're some sort of coffee mercenary, and get the hell out kid, I always hated you because you put too much sugar in your coffee, go get a real job and let me deal with the next person in line. You want to say that because it would be easier, it would be easier than saying that they were pretty cool too, and that the street runs both ways. You don't want to tell them that baristas need their interaction a lot more than their money, you can't say that, I can't, because it's all too damn hard.

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