Wednesday, July 02, 2014

A return to the industry that I love...

When I was teaching full-time, and getting paid part-time, I used to joke that I could probably make more money working at Starbucks. Turns out it's not a joke. A few months ago, after eight months working at an at-home call center for AARP (which is a whole 'nother story), I applied to work at Starbucks and discovered that, between the tips, the health insurance, the retirement contributions and other benefits, I can, in fact, make more than I did when I was teaching. Not that that is saying much.

But I love coffee. I love the aroma of coffee, of the beans, and the drama of running out of caramel syrup. Really, it is like aromatherapy for me. A sense memory.

From 1993 through 1998, I worked entirely in the coffee service industry. I started in Portland at Coffee People on NW 23rd, and then moved to New Orleans, where I worked at PJ's in the Garden District, where Anne Rice was my first customer. Then I got sucked away to grad school in New York City and immediately began working at the Daily Cafe in the basement of the McGraw-Hill publishing building and then at the News Cafe downtown and then at the first Barnes and Noble Cafe on the Upper West Side. I even wrote a collection of stories in which most of the characters work(ed) in coffee shops while mistakenly thinking that they needed to move on.

But after grad school and publication, I, like my characters, mistakenly thought that I was destined to work a job that wasn't in service to other coffee drinkers. What a waste! It was such an unexpected joy to be back in the coffee world that I was reminded, remorsefully, of an acquaintance's Facebook post from a few years ago, when she announced that she had returned to the industry she loved and with a degree of horror I realized that the industry in question was self-tanning. Now I think: good for her! How foolish of me to not respect that.

Every morning I get up before the sunrise, get the dogs out and back in again, head downtown and get the best possible position for people watching: behind the register of the Starbucks at Canal Place. The parade includes Homeland Security, the Saks salesforce (and H&M and the movie theaters upstairs, Anthropologie, etc), lawyers from several firms, tourists from the attached hotel, and so on. By 1pm I'm done for the day and can head over to one of the French Quarter restaurants for a $9 lunch special or head straight home to the dogs. And to writing. I hope.

And to studying for my real estate exam.

1 comment:

tontowilliams.com said...

The first job I had I loved, working in a secondhand bookshop. I doubt I could return to it and be financially better off now, but I suspect mentally I'd be richer.

Good to hear that you're doing a job you love, and are writing (and blogging!)