Aprons

Its 6:45 a.m. and I pull a green apron over my head, fold it up once around my waist, and tie the long emerald strings into a tight knot at my hips.

“Welcome back to the food service industry,” I say to my reflection in the mirror. My reflection forces a smile that says ‘I love my job’, and I realize I look much too young for this. Just the other day someone mistook me for a high school grad and not a college grad.

Maybe I should get glasses to make me look older. Or fess up and actually start wearing makeup.

#unsure

I hide my dark, cropped hair under a black hat bearing the symbol of Starbucks Coffee and smooth down the wrinkles in my apron.f69721af9700edebe64315db0735e3df

Much to my dismay I do feel like I’m back in high school where I wore a white apron as I swept the dusty floors of a bakery. Evening light always beamed in from the West window during the end of my shift, causing a haze in the floury air and notifying me that I had been there much too long. Not only too long for my scheduled shift, but too long as a customer service rep. I couldn’t wait to be done working for the summer and finally leave my white crumb-covered apron behind as I set out for college.

But in college, an apron found me sooner than I expected, for by second semester I was working for a catering company, setting and bussing tables every weekend. As my friends planned Saturday night dates, I’d put on my freshly pressed apron and begin clothing tables with crimson cloths and setting out cups and polished silverware. Hours later I’d still be working, bussing tables with a tub and a rag and my apron smeared with every bit of food, drink and whatever else it could pick up.

When I got a job as a writing tutor I said goodbye to the aprons and only wore the pretty red one in my mom’s kitchen for holiday baking. But just weeks after I graduated from college, with a hard-earned diploma and a few thousand in debt, I was wearing an apron of blue and scooping dishes of ice cream at a frozen custard shop. I only wore this sapphire apron long enough to make a few hundred Turtle sundaes and learn how to blend three milkshakes in less than a minute.

That blue apron was worn thin; each time I pulled it off its silver hook from the back closet and tied it around my waste, I wondered how many dozens  had worn it before me, had wiped their sticky hands on it, and used its corners to clean the sides of freshly packed pints of ice cream.

My apron this morning is green and brand, spanking new, but still I feel my journey has taken me nowhere.

After college I imagined I would be wearing a white collar; instead I’m pulling a black collar over the halter of a green apron. Rather than counting words in a news article, I’m counting minutes before I should brew the next pot of coffee.

Is this not what high schoolers do during summer break or even college kids during those glorious warm months away from school? If so then what am I, a college graduate who’s spent hundreds of hours studying, writing, reading, and memorizing, doing here?

Instead of taking pictures at a news conference, I’m taking orders from a never-ending line of customers, mixing syrups, steamed milk and shots of espresso instead of making documentaries of interesting people.

My heart burns with frustration like the pastry I forgot to pull from the warmer, it simmers like the tin of milk screaming beneath the steamer.

Why am I here and not there?

Taking orders and not photos

Making iced lattes and not videos

Writing dates on creamers and not news articles

Inhale.

Exhale.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” God said to a people exiled from its country. A people like the refugees I’d like to be interviewing. He knows what he has for me and for them. He’s brought me to be a barista–for now– despite my college degree and my burning desire to be elsewhere.

In light of the plans I had for myself I suppose I am in the right place; for there is nowhere better  than where God has called me right now.

It’s 7:00 a.m. and I walk out of the break room with a fresh green apron on, ready to start my shift.

“Be still my soul, the Lord is on your side.”

 

 

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Starbucks Across the Counter

After searching high and low and on LinkedIn for employment, I got a job at Starbucks. I am actually extremely thankful for this job though it doesn’t pertain to my college degree because they give benefits to even part-time employees. And as a partner at Starbucks I get to learn how to make all of the drinks and taste them all too.

#winning 😀

Prior to this I was scooping ice cream at Ritters Frozen Custard. From making cones to making coffee, I don’t know which direction I am going in but the pay for making coffee is higher so I suppose I’m stepping up.

In college, Starbucks was my default study location. But I only went there when I had a gift card or a generous friend. Why? Because the drinks are so ridiculously expensive. But I don’t have to tell you this. It’s common knowledge. But what I’m learning from my training is that customers don’t pay for just a drink at Starbucks, they pay for an experience: their name called from the counter, the smell of a clean delicious cafe, the comfort of leather couches and walls of shiny merchandise, and the gentle lull of music coming over the ceiling speakers. At this moment once Starbucks goers have their drink and are experiencing Starbucks with all five senses it’s time to take a #selfie.

I suppose if I begin blogging about Starbucks, I have come full circle with my blogging career. Before college I worked at Great Harvest Bread Co. and began a blog called “Baking with Julia.” I wrote about bread, crazy customers, and how I couldn’t wait for college. Here I am four years later composing a post about Starbucks, yet another food company. But at a place like Starbucks the fodder for writing inspiration is plenty.

Goodbye writers block.

When I was in England there were only two places that lit my face up every time I saw them: Starbucks and McDonalds. This was actually an early sign of homesickness. But that was a given. Starbucks in England was a magical experience as was most of my life in the UK. I remember walking into a store that could have been a ballroom it was so beautiful. A dome-like ceiling floated above me with an enormous Victorian clock hanging from the wall. The floors were a white, pink, and mint marble that swirled across the store beneath a collection of beautiful couches and chairs. Sipping a Carmel Frap in a place like this can only be magical, unless a group of noisy American girls loudly expressing how awesome this place is are ruining the moment.

#annoying

#cultureclash

Starbucks in Paris was romantic as everything in France is said to be, but also very crowded. A line of customers impatiently squeezed into the tiny cafe waiting for the chanc to order. I vividly remember almost dying with happiness when I came across a Starbucks one cold day in Paris. I’d been wondering the streets aimlessly looking for somewhere to have a cup of coffee and read my book. After ordering a chocolate-chip cookie and an ice water I squeezed my way out upstairs.  The first floor is just for ordering drinks and the second floor is where everyone enjoys there Starbucks experience. Not only was the Starbucks exactly the same as in the US, but there were more Americans in it than I’d seen in my whole time in Paris.

So what will my Starbucks experience be like from the other side of the counter? I suppose you’ll have to wait and see.