So, this morning at the office (read: the coffee slanger around the corner), I'm minding my business doing super important stuff on my laptop like scrolling through pictures of OPB (other's people's babies) on Facebook when the sweet barista has the following conversation with her manager, who's sitting at the table next to mine.
"Can we talk?" asks the sweet barista who never makes me feel weird for not being a hipster in a neighborhood teeming with them.
"Sure," says her manager in a French accent that makes me think she's probably French.
Am I actively eavesdropping? Yes, yes I am. Ear-hustling is a lost art form. I like doing it at the coffee shop whenever I'm especially blocked creatively because what people say in real life is way better than anything you can come up with — trust.
So they're going 'round and 'round about some issue that's obviously bugging the barista, an issue the manager clearly knows about but doesn't want to confront just yet. I can tell because she's both "typing" an "email" and on hold while "listening." But guess who IS listening? Me. Apparently the barista also works at the restaurant attached to the coffee shop and the head chef-slash-owner there is doing something pretty shady.
From what I gather the chef/owner is splitting the "end of night" tips with the serving staff without doing any of the serving himself. This, according to the barista and probably anyone familiar with fairness, is absolutely not what's supposed to happen in the restaurant world. I've never worked as a waitress but it sounds pretty shitty to me.
"I understand it's his business and his money, but I'm not okay with it. We don't get paid a lot. We get paid nothing really. And he's basically taking money from us. Taking money without working for it. I'm just really not okay with that," says the barista in a clear voice that only gets shaky at the end of her speech. You can tell she's been running this over in her head. She probably talked it over with her housemates last night during Happy Endings and came in this morning ready.
I was proud of this young woman whose name I never bothered to learn.
The manager listens as intently as one who's pretending to be typing out a very important and long email can. She dismisses her with a, "We can talk about this later." But the barista doesn't give up.
"My thing is no other restaurant does this. I'm really not okay with it."
Again the manager mumbles something in the heavy French accent I'm now convinced might be Russian about discussing this later. She never all out agrees with the barista but doesn't necessarily commiserate with her either. The barista starts to get antsy.
"Well, if that's going to be the case, then I quit," she says waiting just a quick beat before shrugging on her backpack and walking out the door.
Maybe she does this every day or that entire scene was part of her Improv class homework. But it sounded a lot like quitting to me and I was quite proud. It took me back to all the jobs I walked out on in the past. The one where my boss insisted I was lying about how many times I went to the bathroom during the day. Or the one who claimed I stole a dress from her. Or the one who hired me to sit in an empty office for eight hours a day but got mad when I didn't answer the phone once. I'm almost certain he was a drug dealer of some sort.
There was a delicious twinge of satisfaction when I quit those jobs. A high of freedom that couldn't be undone by worrying how I'd pay my third of the rent the next week. It just felt too good to say "fuck it" literally and figuratively. Sticking to something certainly has its merits but so does cutting loose ends. It takes guts to kiss something, anything goodbye and the first time you do it is the first time you learn how to trust your guts. So, here's to you, Sweet Barista I'll Probably Never See Again, you might not have money for rent next week but you've got my respect.
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