FIFTY SHADES OF GREEN OR COFFEEHOUSE CONFESSIONS OF THE UNCOMMON JOE

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Four-thirty in the morning was an ungodly time of day in mid-February. It was dark. It was cold. There wasn’t a single, solitary person on the road apart from an occasional drunk or delivery man…and Randy. As assistant manager, she was on her way to open up the local coffeehouse. It was the place where the early risers, the ones who desperately needed a cup of coffee to jump-start their day, would congregate. Randy’s car was particularly persnickety that morning. After the initial click-click-click, the motor turned over and she cranked up the heater, even though she knew it would never actually heat up the car more than lukewarm. She really needed a new a new car and it was on her agenda: after she paid this semester’s college tuition for her son, patched the roof on her 150 year-old house, paid off the new water heater… Yes, she really needed a new car. Randy was always baffled that anyone would want to brave the cold and snow just for a cup of coffee. Personally, she would have preferred to stay nestled under a cozy, warm blanket in front of the wood stove at home. She knew that for some of the customers, the coffeehouse culture had little to do with coffee. Coffee was just a secondary benefit. It was the atmosphere of urbanity and sophistication that the twenty and thirty-somethings craved. For the mere price of a cup of coffee, albeit an expensive one, they could feel like they were transported to a New York City café, hobnobbing with famous writers and theater people. One by one, the baristas and customers would come and go, each revealing the shades of their own different and unique lives for any coffee-loving person to share.



CHAPTER ONE

 

Randy

Four-thirty in the morning was an ungodly time of day in mid-February. It was dark. It was cold. There wasn’t a single, solitary person on the road apart from an occasional drunk or delivery man…and Randy. As assistant manager, she was on her way to open up the local coffeehouse. It was the place where the early risers, the ones who desperately needed a cup of coffee to jump-start their day, would congregate. 

Randy’s car was particularly persnickety that morning. After the initial click-click-click, the motor turned over and she cranked up the heater, even though she knew it would never actually heat up the car more than lukewarm. She really needed a new car and it was on her agenda: after she paid this semester’s college tuition for her son, patched the roof on her 150 year-old house, paid off the new water heater…

Yes, she really needed a new car. 

By the time she got to work, her fingers were chilled to the bone, even though she had 

 on her warmest, wool gloves .

She turned the key in the frozen lock and eventually it opened. She turned on the lights using only the dimmer, in case there were any desperate customers hoping she’d open early.

She was always grateful when one of the other employees came in so she was not alone in the dimly-lit store. After all, there were a lot of whackos in the world nowadays.

4:45 am: time to get to work.

First things first. She donned the universal symbol of a designer coffeehouse, the green apron. She often wondered why all upscale coffeehouses wore the same bright green apron? They didn’t even vary the shade of green. And when did a coffee shop turn into a “designer coffeehouse?” She knew it was when they started charging five dollars for a cup of joe and they started calling employees, ‘baristas’.

After unpacking the boxes delivered the night before, and stocking the shelves and cooler, she checked the bathrooms to see if last night’s crew mopped, cleaned, and replenished the supplies. There was nothing worse than a customer coming out to complain that there wasn’t sufficient toilet paper. 

…how embarrassing…

When you pay five dollars for coffee, you should be able to wipe your butt in comfort.

5:00 am: time to make the coffee. It’s Friday, so the morning rush would be heavier than it was earlier in the week. 

5:30 am: time to open the doors.

The first customer was always Jack. Every day he stood outside the door five minutes before they opened, no matter what the weather.

“Good morning, Jack,” Randy greeted him as she poured his large black dark roast without needing to ask what he wanted. 

Jack was always a large, black dark roast.

Next in was Tony. Extra-large with a double shot of espresso. He was a trucker on his way out for a 24 hour run so he needed the extra caffeine boost.

“Drive safe, Tony,” Randy said.

The hallmark of a specialty coffeehouse – know the customers’ names. The daily regulars automatically became part of the barista family.

Then there was the endless line of customers: latte after latte, cappuccino after cappuccino,  espresso after espresso full-caf, 

half-caf, decaf, dry whip, no whip, 2 pump, 4 pump, light ice, extra ice…and so on and so forth.

9:30 am: Janice and her friends came in. Randy rang up the two medium caramel lattes, one 3 pump, one 5 pump, and one large, sugar-free, hazelnut cappuccino with non-fat milk. They took their coffees and sat down at a four-top near the front window and settled in for a good morning chat.


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Author

Judith Sessler

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