It’s Not What You Do

The other day, G and I decided to go to our local big box bookstore to have some coffee and read magazines.  We like to do this every now and then because it helps us with our magazine addiction.  Read lots of them in one place and maybe come home with just one. Or two.  This place has a coffee shop at the back, and as usual, we headed for the coffee first.  G. got a table and went for her magazines while I stood in line.  Even though it was mid morning on a week day, there were a couple of people ahead of me, one a very tall young man with apparently a big appetite for both food and books.  There was only one person behind the counter, a young woman probably in her mid-twenties, with a pleasant face, a sweet smile and a nice attitude.  First in line was a woman whose member card didn’t want to work, but only ordered one thing. She handled that fine, got the discount for the customer, had her drink out quickly.  Then the young man in front of me.  He wanted one of those very large frozen drinks.  Oh, and a piece of cheesecake.  Oh, and what about those pizzas?  Yes, I’ll have one of those.  Better make that to go.  Oh, and can I buy these books here?  Of course, you can, sir, no trouble.  I watched as the server/cashier/cook/general ace of all trades poured the requisite formula for the drink into the blender, pump the flavoring, add ice, set the blender on to pulverize, get the cheesecake slice out of the cooler, put it in a to go container, walk back to the storage area, come back with a pizza, put it in the convection oven, ring up the purchase, including the books, take the man’s money, make change, pour the now frozen drink, slide the pizza out of the oven and into the go box and hand everything to him with a smile and less wait time than most people would have taken to pour a regular cup of coffee.

She didn’t rush. She didn’t fuss.  She didn’t complain, even though the line was building behind me, and no sigh of help was anywhere.  I was next up.  I ordered two lattes and two of the same kind of sandwich that G and I like.  She got the espresso machine going on the shots, went back into the storeroom/kitchen and brought out two of the sandwiches. THEN, she reached into the display case and took the display version of that sandwich out. 

“Oh, we got the last ones, then?” I asked her.  She nodded.  “The last ones ready to cook, anyway.”  Savvy enough to know that people won’t order what they can’t see.  I really appreciated this, because a couple of months ago, we went there when I had a rare Saturday off, and I ordered a sandwich that they were out of, and it took an act of GOD to get that straightened out.  So, bless her smart heart. 

As with the previous customer, she took care of our order, using a quick economy of movement, never stepping anywhere inside the small perimeter of the line without a specific purpose.  She rang up my order, poured my shots into the cup, added the steamed milk, slid the coffee to me, then took the sandwiches out of the convection oven, both sitting on one sheet of parchment paper, brought them to the two side-by-side plates she had already set up,  held the spatula in the center between them and slid each sandwich off on either side.  By the time I got back from taking the plates from our table, our other coffee was ready, and she was on to the next customer, ever pleasant, constantly moving, keeping the flow going, but never once in a rush, never hurried, and always with a smile on her face and a nice word to everyone. 

It’s so rare to see someone at work who honestly seems to know what they’re doing, who might have thought about HOW the job gets done and figured out how to get the most bang for their movement buck.  I remember a manager I had when I worked banquets at the Marriott.  He told us that we should never enter or leave a room without something in our hands that would further our work for that party.  I remembered that immediately watching the young lady yesterday.

I’m sure that being a coffee barista is not her be-all, end-all career.  She might be a mom, she might be a student at the local college.  But I have a feeling that whatever she sets herself to, she will be a success, because I’m positive she’ll bring as much focus and attention to that as she did to pouring a simple cup of coffee.

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