Posts Tagged ‘ social interaction ’


So I spent Memorial Day weekend in the gorge at Sasquatch Music Festival. It was terrific. So much happened.

Let me tell you about Ryan.

After the Mumford and Sons show, my friends and I had agreed to simply wait in the flat area in front of the stage for everyone to clear out so that we could find one another. The tides of the crowd pushed me to the back, where I waited.

As the mob cleared, I scanned the stragglers. I spotted my group, and started weaving my way to them.

On the course I had chosen stood a man. Dressed in jeans and a hoodie, he was standing stock-still in the middle of the floor, obviously stoned.

As I passed, he called, “Excuse me!” Surprised, I turned, “Yeah?”


“Okay,” I complied.

“Let me see your hand,” he said, catching my right hand and turning it over. “Ooookay,” I considered pulling away.

Holding my hand like a sinner begging a priest for forgiveness, he earnestly said, “My name is Ryan, and I have no idea where I am.”

I made a sympathetic comment as, still clasping my hand, he continued, “I was with friends, but they left me, and I have no idea where to look for them.”

“No idea like, space, or time, or what?” I asked, jokingly. He just stared at me blankly.

“I’m looking for my friends, too,” I continued, realizing he was too spaced out to understand my mocking. “I think I just spotted them, but if you head uphill I’m sure your friends will find you. It’s a high traffic area. I’m going to go now.”

“Okay,” he said, “Let’s hug it out.”

Since I had already hugged some strangers that weekend, and he really looked like he needed it, I complied. “Ohhhhh,” he sighed, “You’re the best hugger ever.”

“Oooookay,” I pulled back quickly. “High-five again?” Ryan asked. I high fived him. “Give me your hand,” he said, and took it. He kissed my hand, said, “Thank you,” and tenderly, so tenderly, kissed my hand a second time.

I pulled my hand from his grasp, shouted good luck, and ran.

I charged into the circle where my friends stood at top speed, simultaneously whimpering and laughing.

There were no more stranger hugs that weekend.


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.

How to Get your Baristas to Like You: Abridged Edition

Step One: Be respectful.

Step Two: Be kind.

Step Three: Don’t be a douche.

Step Four: Tip.

Step Five: Don’t order a dry cappuccino.


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!

Why Christians should Tip

As anyone in the service industry can assure you, Christians are very stingy.

Every barista dreads the days when women’s bible studies come into coffee shops, because even though they all (usually) order demanding drinks, all that you get in the tip jar is a whole lot of nothing (or maybe a gospel tract if your shirt is a little lower cut than someone thinks is okay.)

Okay, yeah, I sound a little bitter. But I feel like I have a right to be, because I’m a Jesus follower and no barista or waiter would ever guess it. Why? Because I tip really well.

Wait what.

Why is this the case? Why does this happen? Why, oh why, are women’s bible studies so annoying?

Jesus said to love others more than you love yourself. I understand being a good steward of your money and all, but a really good way to demonstrate love and appreciation to baristas and waitstaff is to tip well, especially if the service was good.

Having a condescending attitude and asking us if we know Jesus after looking pointedly down our shirts is not a good way to demonstrate love.

Let’s face it, Christians– ya’ll (we) have a pretty crappy reputation in this society, and honestly, if you (we) can’t even tip a barista when there’s a whole bunch of you ordering your drinks at once, I can’t exactly say you (we) don’t deserve it.

Repairing the crappy reputation will be a long difficult process because I’m inclined to believe it’s because our priorities are screwed up (image is more important than Jesus) but I’m not going to go into that today.

All I’m saying is that you can start a trend by tipping your baristas and waitstaff.

How about we start by letting people know that Christians are generous?

And I promise you, no one cares about how many sponsor children you have.

Start at home.

Christians, tip your baristas.

Two Decades

Today is my twentieth birthday.

I remember when my brother turned twenty. In the days leading up to the two-oh, he expressed a sense of depression. When I asked why, he responded something along the lines of, “I’m not a teenager any more.”

At the time, I believe I made fun of him for being depressed about growing up. Since I turned thirteen a few days after he turned twenty, I didn’t exactly have a grasp of what he meant. I was still all stoked about growing up.

Then when my sister turned twenty, she expressed a similar despondency. By then I was sixteen and thoroughly over teenagers and their shenanigans.

For the next two years I counted down to eighteen, sure that I would feel like an adult then, and it didn’t. Then nineteen happened, and I felt grown up but still spent a good amount of time counting down to the moment when I would stop being a teenager.

But suddenly, I’m not a teenager any more, and my brother and sister were right.

Twenty is depressing.

I’ve spent the last few days trying to wrap my brain around exactly why twenty is such a bummer birthday– nothing at all like ten. When I reached ten it was a big celebration that I finally had reached double digits, and I was, (as Ramona Quimby would say,) zero-teen.

But I feel no such sense of pride and accomplishment at the milestone of the second decade since I journeyed from my mother’s womb to planet Earth.

It has something to do with twenty seeming like the final nail in the coffin of being allowed to act like a kid. As soon as you’re not a teen any more, you’re supposed to start acting like an adult and thinking about your future and stuff.

Maybe twenty is depressing because the nineties, when I grew up,  are starting to sound like a long time ago.

Maybe it’s because legal drinking age is twenty-one in Oregon. (Just kidding sort of.)

Mostly it’s the picture I carry around in my head of what the social norms for twenty looks like. Twenty is when nice Christian girls start itching for a husband. Twenty is when you’ve chosen your career path, and maybe even know where you want to live.

Twenty is grown up.

And now I’m twenty, and twenty-year-old-Bethany is none of the above.

I want to see the world, learn things, meet people, try food, hear stories, see sights, experience things I would never expect, reflect love to everyone, and above all write about everything. Because Life is Always Interesting.

I want to be a deep thinker, good listener, interesting conversationalist, and straight-faced teller of really bad jokes.

Pretty much, twenty-year-old Bethany doesn’t want to look like the picture of a socially normal/acceptable twenty-year-old that I carry around in my head. I think I gave up the chance at that the moment I decided not to continue going to college.

Twenty is depressing because I feel like somehow, with life, maybe I’m doing it wrong.

If childhood is like a bunch of balloons, it’s like the last one is slipping out of my grasp, drifting away into the blue sky, and there’s nothing I can do but wistfully watch it float away, and then carry on with my life. I’ll probably keep scanning the sky for a while.

Happy birthday to me.

We are the Borg… Almost.

I’ve been mulling over something for a while now, and badly feel like I need to get it off my chest, so here goes.

Technology has royally screwed my generation and the next.

Before you decide I’m a loony and move on, allow me to explain myself.

My peers and anyone younger than us have (in the most literal way) grown up on technology. Before we could write cursive we (and they) are proficient typists. I’ve seen advertisements for “baby computers” that will teach your tot basic computing skills before they can even talk. A little girl in the coffee shop the other day was reading texts aloud to her older sister, wielding her smartphone like I would have a Barbie.

In the personal scope, I can only barely remember before we got our first computer– a Macintosh Performa. While its primary function was for my mom’s work, we also had a number of educational games that we would while hours away playing. My second big computer-related memory is when my mom got my dad an original iMac for his birthday, in a snazzy lime shade. (Yes, kids, there was a time when Mac’s big selling point was its pretty colors, not its artistic-pretentious minimalism.) My little sister cannot remember a time without computers, and was typing before her handwriting was legible.

Now, there are four functioning computers in my house and several that are obsolete. I got my first PC when I was 16, and my second (a definite upgrade) at 18. Now my first laptop has been inherited by my little sister at the tender age of 14, and despite my smartphone and thousand-dollar desktop I’ve been entertaining thoughts of purchasing a wee netbook for myself.

So much has happened in the last fifty years technology-wise. The ultimate question then, do the benefits outweigh the toll it wreaks?

I think no.

So much of our so-called social interaction occurs through the use of electronic intermediaries anymore that we straight up do not have the means to interact in face-to-face, one-on-one situations.

For example, I was once in Townshend’s tea house in downtown Bend with my friend Hilary observing how people use their cell phones in the public sphere. It was pretty unremarkable, until a mob of high schoolers invaded (probably freshmen and sophmores, but I am bad at estimating age.)

We were then treated to the sight of annoying public displays of affection (kissing, snuggling in a mob on the couch, etc,) but with a rather disturbing twist. These kids were at the beck and call of their cell phones– I witnessed at least one person disengage themselves from a kiss to answer a text, and several people shut down conversations in favor of their cell phones.

I was (and still am) completely flabbergasted.

Since when did people who aren’t present become more important than the people you’re with?

(I’m finally at the point!)

People use these electronic intermediaries as a way to keep people distant. It may be subconscious — it’s not for me. The reason technology has screwed us over, though, my fellow under-20-ers, is because we have no recollection of a time without electronic intermediaries, and therefore our social skills are systematically breaking down.

You know how annoying it is when you’re in a group and there’s one person who is constantly texting someone who isn’t there? Have you ever been in a group where the majority engaged in this lack of etiquette? How long until trying to engage with the group is considered bad etiquette?

Why do you think suicide rates are so disturbingly high? No one has a voice. No one makes deep connections. We have no real community– it’s all imagined. We may as well be the Borg, plugged into a network but blind to what’s right in front of us.

%d bloggers like this: