This feels very familiar.
When I burst into the 7-11, the twins JD and JP behind the counter greet me with a double greeting of "oh it's you!" and "it's been a long time!" We shoot the breeze for a few moments before I gather up two armfuls of ice and I'm out the door again.
I don't actually need to run, but I love the exhilaration of it. And admittedly, the self-importance. I make ice runs to the 7-11 often enough that JP sometimes hides an ice bag or two in the back for me when they're about to run out. And one particularly hot, simmery day when I open the door, he regretfully informs me right away that they didn't get their ice shipment so I run all the way back up to the Safeway eight blocks away to claim my chilled plunder.
I'm an expert ice-runner. I've also gotten particularly good at picking out delicious avocados (there's a certain squishyness involved) in record time (sometimes I run to the nearby Harvest Market when we've run out of vegetables) and attacking the avocado seed with a knife to twist it out. There's a game show somewhere that I'm primed for, I'm sure of it, I just don't know which one yet. I've also been training myself to handle hot items, attempting to toughen up my fingertips so I handle them more quickly and easily. Of course, this didn't stop me from burning my fingers completely when I accidentally grasped a right-out-of-the-oven pizza pan at someone's house this past weekend. My feeling of burn invincibility outstrips the reality of it (perhaps a strange strain of megalomania), and I ruefully reflected on this as I ran my fingers under a steady stream of cold faucet water afterwards.
When I'm making latte art, I tend to do it with an extra bit of wrist flourish. The usage of the white chocolate squeegee bottle always necessitates a counterclockwise spin up before I squeeze a dollop out. Espresso, after all, is about the experience as much as the taste and I confess to indulging in a bit of personal showmanship more for a private thrill than anything else.
My favorite though are the regular customers. My often crippling lack of social skills aren't as prevalent when working at the cafe and the consummate facial blindness that I seem to suffer from generally isn't a problem here. Names, faces, usual drinks roll off the tongue and the mind's eye with ease. As a customer, I've always wanted to be a regular or walk into a Cheers-type situation and I kinda love being on the other side of that for people. Regular drinks, how that midterm exam went, or remembering the book a customer recommended -- I like this type of casual, quick interaction although sometimes I wonder if I'm being a bit creepy like how unsettling it might be when someone responds to you on facebook a little too promptly. I promise I don't accompany any of these with a sly barista wink over the latte heart I make. The last time I attempted a wink to the prompting of a curious friend, it set off guffaws. My wink is about as effective as my evil villain laugh and actually results in the same reaction in its recipients rather than striking any sort of appropriate reaction into their hearts (ie lust/fear).
I get asked quite frequently how long I'm going to be at this job and 90% of the time it's asked in a deprecating manner. I don't want to dwell too much on that seeing as how I've touched on how I feel about my future in a recent blog post. An answer I give is that I enjoy the flexibility of this job. I work mornings and then I'm free to go teach music or to play any music gigs. And this is 90% true.
But it's actually much more than that. I don't feel ready to leave this job yet. I love tamping down coffee grounds, the exhalation of coffee beans when I squeeze a newly roasted bag. The melted collapse of ice cubes when I make a pourover. The slight taste of blueberry in our latest roast. Stamping our coffee cups. Oh and our new red coffee lids that make the cups look like spaceships. People smiling, people stoic as they stumble in not quite bright-eyed and bushy-tailed in the morning, people that come in daily, and people who are new and want a recommendation. People that grab a drip to go, people that park for a while with their laptops, and people that are catching up with each other over their steaming cups. The mornings where I open alone and get to play some Brahms or early-period Schoenberg over our speakers. Those moments when I mix just the right amount in the pitcher to create a perfect pour. Those quiet mornings where I sit and get to know my coworkers a bit better. Those bustling mornings where I'm working in a perfect cadence and rhythmic tandem with my coworkers around the small space we have. Kicking the mini-fridge door closed because it tends to bounce back ajar after the initial attempt. The swirl of milk in the pitcher while I steam it. That satisfaction I get when I peek in the bus bin and see that my drinks have gotten finished to the last drop. I get a distinct, and maybe strange, pleasure from all of these things.
Oh and sprinting down the street with two ice bags in tow. I like that too.
I've been finding that several of my recent blog posts follow a similar rhythm with a sort of listing/rapid-fire delivery of joys. But that's just how I feel these days. I'm actually just extremely grateful for much in my life.