While interning, reading, playing, and hanging out in Michigan, I’ve missed out on what I’ve heard has been a very beautiful summer in Seattle. Maybe I’ll live there next summer…
The following is a piece written by my future roommate about his summer in Seattle.
There is a coffeeshop in my city. There are many, actually. I live in the most caffeinated city in America. I live in the most “coffee’ed” city in, arguably, the world.
Welcome to Seattle. My city.
It’s a quirky town. People say it rains here all the time, but they’re wrong. We just experienced the second-longest streak of no rain in recorded history. It took 48 days for it to rain again, and in-between, all sun. However, it is the summer, and summer is nothing like the rest of the year. For a beautiful two months, Seattle blooms. Admittedly, the rest of the year is washed in grey. There’s no good barbecue that I’ve seen, which is sad, because I was raised on the stuff, but the city knows its way around a good plate of Thai, and that makes a good substitute. The people here are nice, but terrible drivers. Most neighborhoods are quite safe at night, and everyone that lives here knows the specific street corners to avoid past nine o’ clock. The Space Needle sucks, and the real Seattle lies in the neighborhoods outside of downtown. Seattle Center is a tourist trap. Every neighborhood has hidden treasures waiting to be found: restaurants, monuments, shops, views. And coffee. Seattle has coffee.
I say “my city” like I own the place. Most days I wish I could. Seattle is more of an adopted son. Or a fresh, passionate lover after a nasty relationship that ended on a bittersweet e-minor. A new goddess welcomed into the theology of a disillusioned former priest. I wasn’t from here originally, but I think I can call it home now. It’s not official or anything, I don’t have it down on paper or any state document, but I know it well enough to give vague directions to tourists, and I think that counts. Anyway, I digress. My city.
And the coffeeshop. Let me introduce you to the coffeeshop I worked in for nearly half a year. Not my coffeeshop by any means. Sure it was part of a chain. Sure the bags of coffee I opened went to thousands of other coffeeshops around the country. There was nothing special about this particular branch, and if special could go backwards, this shop was that. It wasn’t busy. It probably lost corporate a lot of money if we’re counting. But it was special. It was to me. I lived there for a good 40 hours a week for a few months, so I suppose for the time I was there it was a kind of home.
We had our rushes, in the morning especially, but for the most part this branch was quiet, and experienced a good deal of “The Lonely”. Our customers came from the businesses nearby, and so for a short hour or two in the morning, people would rush in for their morning cup of coffee on their way to work. After 11 in the morning, the store would become silent, the crowds would move on, and the day would slow down. It was pretty lonely in the afternoons there at the little shop, aside from all the caffeinated construction workers coming in for their blended caramel coffees topped with vanilla-syrup-filled whipped cream. Just so everyone knows, screw those blended drinks. They were the worst. Aside from making six to 10 blended drinks at one time at the whim of the construction workers, the afternoons were quiet and lonely. But The Lonely was nice sometimes. It was better than The Busy. Working the register during The Busy makes you feel like a fast-food joint, and making the drinks during The Busy just makes you want to die.
When it was quiet, when The Lonely shook its feathers, woke up, and swooped down on us, when the rush died down and it was just the customer and me, the barista, making the finest latté I could with what I had, with the smoothest foam and the perfect shot of espresso, that’s when the customer and I broke down the outer shell of corporate coffee. It was in conversations with regulars on the quiet weekend mornings or lonely afternoons that I found true joy in making coffee, and was able to forget my previous vendetta against corporate coffee. When the conversation drifted past “do you want whipped cream on this mocha”, to “how was your day kayaking in Lake Union”, and we addressed each other not by “sir” or “hey I wanted soy, not nonfat, how dare they let you touch an espresso machine?” but instead knew each others’ names and lives, that was when I really fell in love with my job. It was through teasing a friend about fancy he looked on Sunday for church compared to the rest of the week, or discussing the morning comics in the newspaper that made my time at Starbucks worth all the rushes. It wasn’t so much about what was in the cup anymore, but became centered around the relationship between who made what was put in the cup and the person about to drink it.
Even if what went in the cup was just a cup of really awful, terrible coffee.