Posts Tagged ‘ coffee shop ’

An Open Letter to Slow Walkers

Today I walked to a coffee shop to do homework. Therefore, I was toting a rather heavy backpack. Despite that, I was still trudging along at a fairly swift clip.

I’m not a slow walker. I’ve had people give me crap in the past for walking too fast (“slow down and smell the roses, Bethany,”) but those people are simply under the wrong impression that because I walk quickly, I’m not enjoying the walk. On the contrary– I find a slow walk to be irritatingly wasteful. Why spend more time than necessary between points A and B?

But I digress.

There was a marathon going by my house today. Therefore, the sidewalk, while not riddled with people, was certainly more inhabited than is usual for a Sunday morning.

As I trudged along, heavily laden, a wide-set middle aged human male bearing a camera stepped from his post on the side of the road right into the middle of the sidewalk. Right into my path.

The thing that’s great about sidewalks is that they’re wide enough for three or more lanes of foot traffic.

The thing that’s terrible about sidewalks is that one carelessly (strategically?) placed human being can effectively block the entire sidewalk.

The wide-set human male meandered, making a speedy pass too awkward too risk. My shoulders ached from my backpack, which felt heavier as each step slowed. Finally, after attempting and failing to pass the wide-set male multiple times in the length of half a city block, the sidewalk opened into a driveway. I hauled ass and scooted around him. He seemed surprised to see me, which indicated to me that either a) he was oblivious or b) my Converse-clad footsteps are quieter than I thought.

This certain human male is, unfortunately, just one example of  Slow Walkers. I call that category the Space-Taker.

Another class of Slow Walker is the Tourist.

Tourists tend to travel in packs of three or more, oblivious to the plight of people who work in the neighborhood they’re ogling. As they slowly travel down the sidewalk, they often abruptly stop to point and comment about something in a window, a busker, a hobo, or anything that seems strange to their innocent Tourist eyes.

Tourists also tend to tote umbrellas. (Worst thing ever.)

As a Local and a Swift Walker, I find Tourists to be the worst Slow Walkers.

Other categories of Slow Walkers are Parents, Partiers, Texters, and Talkers.

I would like to extend a plea to all Slow Walkers, everywhere.


You can enjoy the sights and sounds just as thoroughly if you’re propelling yourself along at a normal, quick pace. You don’t HAVE to walk side by side with your friends, especially when people are trying to pass you in order to get to work.

(And on a sidebar, people who don’t make room for people coming the opposite direction, forcing them to step into the street, are real douchebags.)

If you must walk slow, please just do humanity a favor and don’t occupy the entire sidewalk with your body. There’s enough room for all of us, people! And if you put your umbrella away we’ll be friends even more.

And a warning: Slow Walkers, every time you Walk Slow in front of a Swift Walker, you risk being punched in the back of the head. Or the kidneys.

That is all.


Things your Barista is Not.

It has come to my attention that the general public is not quite sure what is in my job description as a barista. To help you, I have compiled this list of Things that Your Barista is Not.

Latte art

Your Barista is Not a Psychic.

You, the customer, must tell me, the barista, what you want. Staring at me as you hold your money out is insufficient. So is telling your friend what you want as you walk into my cafe. Throwing your money on the counter and mumbling “the usual” will not get you what you want if we have never seen each other before.  Expecting me to read your mind will simply result in an awkward conversation and annoyance arising between us.

I might joke about how I went to wizarding school to learn latte art, but reading your mind just wasn’t a part of the training. Sorry. (Not really.)

Your Barista is Not Your Therapist.

Honestly, you can talk to me. We can joke around and be friends, and maybe even have real proper conversations every once in a while. But the moment I start to feel like your therapist is the moment I tune you out, and if it’s ongoing I will probably complain about you later to my fellow coffee people (who are also not your therapist.) I understand if you’re unhappy because of a death in the family, a failing marriage, an argument, or whatever, but really, I don’t get paid enough to be your therapist. Let the coffee be your therapy.

Your Coffee Shop is Not a Dating Service.

Any barista who’s been playing the game for a while can sense the stench of desperation from across the cafe. Feeble attempts like five dollar bill hearts as a tip, “We should text sometime,” or using Harry Potter as a point of mutual interest– all true stories– These might be fine strategies in a normal context (not that I recommend giving five dollar bill hearts to anyone ever,) but in the cafe context they’re just pathetic and inappropriate.

When I’m at work, I’m not on the prowl. That’s all. My job might be more fun than yours, but I’m still getting paid minimum wage plus tips to even talk to you right now, and if you’re the kind of person who’s going to hit on your baristas, I’d never talk to you outside of when I’m getting paid. Please keep that in mind.

Myself, when/if I find you, a customer, an interesting enough person that I want to spend time with you in a normal, outside-of-work context, I will let you know.

Your Barista IS a Fellow Human Being.

As a fellow human being, your baristas deserve the simple courtesy of eye contact and a greeting. I don’t demand conversation, friendliness, joking, or whatever. But it is not that difficult for you to be moderately polite, and it improves my day immensely.

And if you tip, well, now we’re friends.


Since I work in the service industry, I think a lot about customer service. Recently there was an article in Roast Magazine about customer service– I read it expecting a suave article full of tips and tricks, but what it boiled down to was very basic stuff that I learned in my first and second service-based jobs. It seemed too simple for Roast.

So I’ve been mulling over my personal philosophy on customer service. You’ve all heard that the customer is always right? I disagree. The customer may not always be right, but their needs always come first.

That, of course, applies to paying customers. If someone comes in, sits down, and comes back to me whining that the internet doesn’t work when they haven’t bought anything, my level of caring is at about zero percent.

In particular, a lot of baristas get into a rut of thinking that customers are idiots, because they aren’t trained in coffee. While this may be right in some cases (oh, the stories I could tell you,) it doesn’t make it okay to treat paying customers like they’re dumb. They just haven’t learned things yet, and you have the opportunity to teach them. I touched on this in a blog several months ago, and I stand by what I said then. Baristas, don’t condescend, and customers, don’t be rude.

However, there is one thing I feel like you all need to know about my job. When I greet a customer, I set a pleasant tone to the conversation. You, with your response, then set the tone for the entire interaction. If you’re rude to me after I’ve been nice to you, it’s going to be very, very difficult for me to be any more than polite.

That’s what I’ve been thinking about today. Hope you all had great Thanksgivings!

Two Jobs

Dear everyone:

This week, I am adjusting to having two jobs, which means my schedule is much more busy than I’ve become accustomed to, and that’s part of the reason my blogs are probably going to be short this week and next week.

However I absolutely adore both of my new jobs. I’ve been working once a week or so at Oblique Coffee Roasters. I highly recommend you visit this place if you’re in the Portland area. It’s not a very large operation (yet) and the coffee is terrific. The space is open and inviting with a couple of comfy couches, and every time I’ve been in (even the first time) I’ve had interesting conversations with the owners, who are almost always behind the bar. I love it.

The other place I’ve become employed is the Fresh Pot. This is a rather different job than I’m used to, as there are three locations and the coffee is from Stumptown. The location I work for resides cozily inside the Powell’s Books on Hawthorne. Can you say terrific? I work in a coffee shop inside a book store. It’s like everything I’ve ever dreamed of. The coffee is good quality, my co-workers are friendly, and I also adore this new job.

Yesterday I took the beginner’s training course at Stumptown. I didn’t really learn anything about technique that  I didn’t already know, but it was good to learn a little about the company and also to see the roastery. Since  I’ve only ever worked for small scale roasters, it was really fun to see the other end of the spectrum– as in a giant Probat instead of a small one.

That’s all I have for now.

See you on Wednesday!

In which Bethany Chooses not to Make Excuses for a Late Post

Today on my way home from SE Portland, I stopped a few bus stops early to go into the coffee shop of my employ, and as I was walking home (a walk that’s actually quite nice when it’s not rainy,) when I had a sudden realization.

I really like walking with a sort of heavy backpack.

When I have food and clothes upon my back and a shoulder bag with a book and a journal, it’s easy for me to pretend that that’s all I have in the world.

I imagine how simple life would be if all my possesions fit into a backpack and a shoulder bag. Maybe in this imaginary life I would strap a ukulele to my pack, and play it on busy street corners when I ran out of money, and after I had a few dollars I would sit in a coffee shop with my journal and record all the interesting events of the day.

If I were a wandering vagrant, maybe it would be more difficult to get distracted from God by the materialism of our culture, and maybe I would be a person more in touch with the Creator and the Cosmos.

In this imaginary life, maybe I would be free to travel anywhere I could walk, ride a bus, or afford a plane ticket to. Maybe if I had a companion we could jump onto trains and hitchhike.

I really like walking with a backpack.

The rich Lake Oswego people drive by, some of them rubbernecking as if they believe the imaginary life I’ve written for myself. Maybe they think I’m a wandering vagrant, on my way to the next wayside where I’ll spend the night. But I have them fooled.

Just up the road, I live in a house with a refrigerator and a pantry, where my mattress, bass, guitar, and desktop computer all sit on the floor because the farthest I’ve taken my minimalist dream is to the point of no furniture.

But still… I like the idea of being able to carry everything I own.

I like walking with a heavy backpack.

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