Posts Tagged ‘ portland ’

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.

WALK FASTER!!

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.

Gratitude

I love to complain.

As a human being, I think this is a pretty common condition.

Since I don’t want turn into a sour person as I age, I’ve been working on complaining less, and telling funny stories more. But to convert a whiny complaint into a funny story requires a combination of perspective and time.

Even on my worst days, my life is good. In perspective, I have nothing to complain about, even if work was irritating, I got rained on, had no food to eat, fell off my bike, and got scratched by a cat.

Perspective is a weird thing. It only really works if you combine it with gratitude.

What point is it to acknowledge that other people have it so much worse than you if you can’t be grateful for the things that are better about your life?

(“Oh, I know there are people who have to walk five miles a day for drinking water, but this is AMERICA and I shouldn’t have to take a cold shower, like, EVER.”)

For the last several weeks, I’ve been overwhelmed at how incredibly lucky I am. This season of life is amazing. It has its ups and downs, like any season of life, but really, who am I to complain?

I live in an incredible city, have amazing jobs, co-workers, friends, and family. Every day, my life could be so much worse, and it isn’t.

That’s all, really. I’m grateful for my life and the people who are a part of it.

Here’s a cool photo of Portland for you.

Sunset on Hawthorne.

Sunset on Hawthorne.

Starbucks

I feel like I need to clarify my opinions about Starbucks, since I’ve had two people in the last two weeks say something along the lines of “Will you hate me if I get a job at Starbucks?”

The answer to that question is a resounding no.

Of course not!

I will feel very sorry for you, though, for a lot of reasons.

Starbucks has a massive menu that you have to memorize.

Starbucks customers don’t know what the heck they want out of life or their coffee, so they take forever to order and make ridiculous demands.

Starbucks is the McDonalds of the specialty beverage world.

So heck no I won’t hate you for working at ‘bucks any more than I’d hate you for working at McD’s, or Burger King, or any other fast food joint. I’ll make fun of you, obviously. But I probably do that anyway.

I don’t hate Starbucks any more than I hate the diner that gave me a terrible cup of coffee a few weeks ago.

I think their products are bad. I think their customer service makes my life as a real barista much more difficult (the whole “you can have anything you can imagine because you’re always right” attitude is really awful to deal with.)

But I don’t waste my energy hating a corporation. I choose not to patronize them because their product is no good.

But no hate.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how I feel about Starbucks.

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.

Things I learned in 2012.

When I was drafting this blog, I was laughing internally because in comparison, the one I wrote for 2011 was so short. It amuses me that 2011 felt like I grew so much, but 2012 was so much more.

So because this list is so long, I’m going to subdivide it into months.

January

  • Saying goodbye isn’t the hardest thing– living without is.
  • Moving to the Willamette valley in January is a terrible idea. It’s the crappiest weather of the year.

Feburary

  • Crappy jobs still pay rent.
  • Rich people aren’t good tippers. Actually, rich people are the worst tippers.
  • Getting thoroughly lost can be the best way to learn about a city’s geography.

March

  • Sometimes the only way to stay sane is to tune out.
  • If you’re willing to be surprised, a good friend can come from anywhere.

April

  • Unemployment is only scary when it stops feeling like a vacation.
  • Twenty is a surprisingly bummer age to turn. Suddenly adulthood feels like a burden

May

  • Aim high, be prepared to score low, and you may be pleasantly surprised.

June

  • Summer in Portland is perfect. 
  • Living in a main street in Portland during the summer… Not so much.

July

  • Nothing is certain, not even your life.
  • Getting prodded by medical folk gets easier the more it happens. Same with throwing up.
  • Dulaudid is one hell of a drug.
  • Recovery is the hardest part– waiting and wanting to be back to normal, but still sick.
  • In spite of the soap opera-y parts, Friends is an awesome show.
  • Staying hydrated is so much more important than I ever thought. Drink water, people!

August

  • Bicycling through Portland at night in the summer is amazing.
  • Doctor Who is one of the best TV shows of ALL TIME.
  • Life goes back to normal really easily, even when you’re changed forever and there’s constant turmoil in your brain.

September

  • Empathy is not a strong trait of mine, except where my sisters are concerned.
  • Every wedding should have dancing. (and dancers.)

October

  • Important decisions can be delayed.
  • I’m freaking awesome at parallel parking.

November

  • People who skype in coffee shops make me nervous.
  • Shutting up and listening is important.

December

  • Feeling rich is still a major fault of mine.
  • Handmade Christmas presents are the best!
  • Distance hasn’t made me love Central Oregon and my people there any less, and time hasn’t made me miss them any less.
  • Even though 2012 was a really tough year, it was a really good year– and it was really important.

And yeah… Fart jokes are still funny.

With that said, I’m really looking forward to what 2013 will hold. I’m making plans to intentionally make it the best year ever.

Cheers!

Sugar

There is a deep and somewhat personal indignation that fills my heart when a customer, having ordered espresso, takes that espresso and dumps sugar in it without tasting it first.

I seem to remember reading a silly online etiquette guide sometime that said it was the height of rudeness to salt food before tasting it when dining at a friend’s house. It’s considered an affront to the host/ess– an assumption that the food was improperly seasoned.

Well, I feel similarly insulted when customers assume that the exquisite espresso I serve them is not fit for human consumption before making the drink a matter of sucrose to coffee ratios rather than one of simple, pure, delightful coffee.

I understand that not everyone likes espresso, even when it’s good. It’s powerful stuff. But if you don’t like espresso, why didn’t you order a mocha? Mochas are like espresso with training wheels (in the form of chocolate syrup and milk.)

(Recently, I had a customer take a mocha and add a few tablespoons of sugar. To you, sir, I say this: Have fun with your impending diabetes– or just order a hot chocolate or something and stop trying to drown the coffee.)

It may be unfair to think that customers are assuming my espresso is bad. They might not be trying to insult my skills, but rather just be shocked and intimidated by the size, and correctly assume the potency while underestimating its deliciousness.

I haven’t decided whether or not the offence and sorrow I feel at the untasted sugaring of coffees I serve is rational or fair. If it isn’t, I’m pretty sure I don’t care. Even if it’s a wholly irrational sense of insult, I think it’s a noble emotion which I should embrace, because the coffees I serve are freaking delicious and don’t need sugar.

That is all.

(On another note, I’m finally back! Yay.)

The Purple Man

I work in a very strange area. The part of town my primary employment is in is the hip part of town, and it’s Portland, so the hipper one is the weirder one must strive to be (apparently.)

My co-workers lovingly refer to it as the Hawthorne Freak Show.

For the most part, I like it. Anyone who is so into being weird that they make me seem like a mature, together, and reasonable human is all right in my book.

Occasionally, though, I meet a real winner. Last night was one of those times.

Close to closing time, around 9:45, I was talking to a regular about the benefits of listening to music on vinyl versus digital, and someone going by the window caught my eye.

Normally, I wouldn’t give a human male wearing basketball shorts and shoes a second look. But this male was engulfed from head to toe in a vivid purple unitard, complete with facial coverage.

Since I assumed he was simply a hipster who fancied himself a performance artist, I quashed my instinct to get the security guy Tyson when he waltzed into the shop and sat down across from a customer, who looked rather frightened as she asked “Do I know you?” He simply shook his head, stood up, and walked over to the next customers. They were a middle aged couple who found him to be quite droll, and their laughter assured me they were not disturbed.

Then, since he apparently got tired of not talking to the laughing couple and there were no more customers in that direction, he walked over to me, placing his elbow on the counter and his chin in his hand.

“Hi,” I greeted him, pretending not to notice his lack of speaking and severe purpleness, “How’s it going?”

He gave a thumbs up, and then pointed at me, apparently asking the same question. “I’m doing all right,” I responded, “Is there anything I can make for you?”

When he shook his head and continued to stare at me (I guess since his face was pointed at me,) I went on “Okay, well, I’m closing up in a few minutes. Just so you know.”

He nodded, and turned to leave, waving at the still-giggling couple as he left.

Somebody’s parents couldn’t afford mime school…

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