Art by Kellie
Everything I Needed To Know About Life, I Learned From Brewing Coffee and Checking Coats.
I could really write a whole damn symphony about my bizarre employment history, but that’s not the point of today’s article. I am, admittedly, one to bleed a job dry with my existence and cut out with a fat check before anyone gets attached. Most recently, as I’ve descended into the second layer of adulthood entitled “career”, I’ve finally gotten the chance to reflect upon the jobs I’ve held and the impact they’ve made upon my life.
Typically, I’ve had more meaningful experiences with my little part-time jobs. Nine to fivers at a semi-interesting job procure the sleepy zombies, who’ve been surrounded with the same people for an extended amount of time. They work on what they’re supposed to work on, eat lunch in silence, and go straight back to work. Obviously that’s not the same case for everybody and there are some people out there who actually like their co-workers. On the other side of the spectrum, jobs with employees on a varying schedule lets you meet more people.
In the little cupcake shop I worked in for a year, I learned something new about a coworker every single day. The turnaround rate was pretty quick, so in a given month, I could meet five or six new employees from all parts of the world. I made friendships with these folks, became romantically involved with others and gossiped all before the end of a morning shift.
The element that separates a job and career for most is the public. At my job as an associate producer for a medium sized production company, I never met any of the people from the companies we worked with to create content. It’s not like the CEO of the Discovery Channel ever waltzed on in with a box full of doughnuts to check in on the lowly employees. We all kept to ourselves and did what we were told. The public has a funny reaction to a person who’s visibly not in a spot they want to be. When I worked the front counter at a cafe, serving coffee to the upper class, they responded in a way to which they thought I would find reassuring. They would tip me generously and attempt to make conversation with the poor little fella in the green apron.
“How’s your day going?” They’d usually ask.
“Going well!” I’d reply, distracted with the duties at hand.
“That’s great, man. Keep up the good work. You’ll get there one day.” Then they’d throw a five in my tip jar. Those words always seared my flesh like a branding iron. “You’ll get there one day.”
I’d take out my anger on whatever surface I was cleaning. Of course I’ll get there one day.
Most of the people who frequented the cafe worked at a small architecture firm a floor above me. A lot of the architects got their jobs by having connections – or in some cases, being directly related to the CEO. They got there a lot faster than I did, but I still knew I wasn’t going to be brewing coffee at age 50.
The discord between the rich and poor; them and me, is a subject of constant fascination. There were those who you could instantly tell worked their asses off to be where they were. These were the people who come into a store, place an order while looking me in the eye, and maintain their humble persona. When I was a coat checker at an upscale club in LES, I quickly be able to discern the wealth of each person by the jacket they gave me. Some would walk in with designer coats and throw them at me.
“How much is coat check?” They’d ask, fumbling through their wallets.
“It’s complimentary,” I’d say, “but tips are recommended.”
They’d put away their wallets as I handed them their claim ticket and walk away. I’d watch them get more and more belligerently drunk with their friends, shelling out the twenty-odd dollars for a cocktail. Funny, they seem fine with tipping the bartender. They’d mercilessly grind on their girl of the week and grimace as she laughed, not knowing her guy was showing a naked pictures of her to his friend while she was in the bathroom. Hours later they’d tell me I was the best goddamn coat checker in the world and throw ten dollar bills into my tip jar. Thanks for the blood money, I’d think to myself. I’m going to go ahead and pay my rent with it.
I’ve become afraid of overly rude wealthy people, more specifically the reactions they give when things don’t go their way. Of course, I could give less than a shit if they’ve dropped a cupcake, their coffee is too hot, or I hung up their coat incorrectly. I’d have a hoot of a time destroying their private property if they didn’t make me so bad about myself. I recall one specific phrase that was shouted to me as I feverishly searched for a successful lawyer’s briefcase in the coat check room.
“Kid. Come on! I’ve got a car waiting!”
I remember laughing to myself at the amount of rage I felt surge through me. I wanted to walk up to him, dump out the contents of his briefcase and spit in it. I wanted to deconstruct every part of his shitty statement; how I wasn’t a goddamn kid, how I couldn’t care less about his car, and then accuse him for being too good for the subway. But I didn’t. I found his stuff, handed it to him, and forced myself into a coma for the rest of the night.
I guess that’s your twenties. Taking orders from people who will be dead and forgotten by the time you get to their age, swallowing your anger, and self-medicating yourself until you forget.
Aside from my scathing articles, I’d like to think I’ve accepted this life. Because, it’ll all be in the past soon. Needless to say, I’m a goddamn angel to those who serve me my coffee.
- Jeremy Glass, Contributing Writer; candyandpizza.com