Barista in Training: A Smashing Shift

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The steamer screams maliciously as a tin container of milk froths to a comfortable temperature. I feel like I’ll never understand these barista drinks, let alone create friendships with my workmates. They know so much more, and it becomes clear to me that I will be a novice forever. Of course, who am I to judge my barista skills after a measly two shifts? Since when did anybody climb to the rank of barista master in a matter of hours anyway? I have hope yet.

Wait a moment, they’re friendly, and actually want to show me how these contraptions work! It seems I’m not alone; they often make mistakes as well. This trivial two-hour shift is running more smoothly than I imagined.

Cha-ching! The register opens as my workmate places a cup in front of me. Barista language is painted on the side of this cup, indicating a small mocha that needs to be created. Hold on, there’s more to this than any plain mocha. This guy wants another pump of mocha sauce and one pump of vanilla. It appears he really needs his sugar fix. What? Two extra shots of espresso? He must oil his gears with caffeine.

I keep my composure and grab the white tub of espresso; our machine isn’t new, so we have to pack each shot individually. I squish down the espresso into the shot dispenser with a white plastic spoon and smooth off the top. I place it snugly in place, and prepare the shot glasses to catch the espresso.

This drink is a little over the top, but at least he didn’t ask for skim milk—oh wait, he did. Time to steam new milk. My workmates are encouraging and walking me through my faults instead of pushing me into espresso quicksand. They understand.

With just one hour of work left, I am enlisted to spend it learning the ways of the register. It doesn’t seem that bad; there’s the hot chocolate button and the coffee one. This is a piece of coffee cake. What? This customer wants a large coffee with vanilla syrup in it? Is that even allowed? I’ll just click through all of the options until I find a syrup button. A workmate points it out to me after I click about 15 other buttons. Woops.

Perfect, a break with no customers in sight. This seems like the perfect time to teach myself more about the secrets of the MICROS register. All right, let’s see: extras are here, soup is there, and iced drinks are there. I must be a prodigy to learn this all so fast. No more mistakes will be formed on my part ever again! A customer comes up with an item that needs to be scanned. I move the barcode under the infrared light and nothing happens. Why is this item not scanning? Am I moving it past the infrared incorrectly? After a few flighty swipes, it finally scans. What do you mean, “Item price not found”? I have broken the MICROS register, that’s all there is to it. Time for a scolding. Hmm, so when an item doesn’t scan, you only have to assume the price with other priced assortments? The problem is the MICROS register after all.

I decide to take it easy for my final ten minutes and rest against an open cabinet door. I can totally get used to this job. The stress stays low, and I’ll actually be getting paid. Looks like I will be ending freshmen year wi- OW! My finger! I didn’t move it out of the way when the Student Leader closed the cabinet door. Not to worry, it’s just a scratch that happens to be accompanied with pounding pain. My left middle finger beats simultaneously with my heart. Circular darkness claws into my line of vision. If I can just make it into the bac—Floor. Headache. My workmates staring at me. Hmmmm. I put two and two together and realize that I fainted and tumbled onto the floor, hitting my head in the process.

Well, this is embarrassing. I faint in front of my workmates, it’s only my second shift ever, and now I have to stay on the floor because of a possible head injury? Ironically enough, the coffeehouse is located in the Academic Research Center, which is filled with medical students. Wow, everybody is super nice and no one is laughing. They actually care, probably because this is a great training exercise for them. Wait, this is fantastic experience for me too. The register doesn’t seem as discouraging after surviving fainting at work.

After figuring out that a head injury is unlikely, I am allowed to get up from the tiled floor. The Student Leader even let me leave my shift early. At the very least, I was expecting a stern warning, but every workmate has a cool head. It’s great to know that they understand that mistakes happen; it gives me hope for future employment. Of course, I will probably be the talk of the coffee house for a while now, and who knows how the Student Leaders will treat me. What if they start babying me? At least I feel extra motivated to keep my fingers away from open cabinet doors now.

Matt Howard is a junior at Ohio University studying Advertising while specializing in English and Creative Writing. He strives to become the Doctor's next companion while writing about the topics that deserve recognition.

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