I set my alarm for 4:45 am

Working As A Barista

It’s midnight, and I am realizing I will only get a few hours of sleep before being rudely awakened by my iPhone’s alarm. Luckily, or rather unluckily, it’s a familiar feeling to me.

Cursing the little man in my head that makes me procrastinate (it’s not my fault, I swear), I fall asleep as soon as my head hits the pillow. According to my best estimate, the alarm goes off 5 minutes later.

I’m up, and I’m off to work.

I arrive feeling sleep-deprived and rushed most days, but something about saying “Good morning, how are you?” and “have a lovely day!” to 234209384028 people before 10:30am cures that feeling. Or maybe I’m absorbing caffeine through my fingertips. Who knows.

It’s different than my usual work, and I like it.

Most of the time I’m a software engineer. Most of the time I don’t drink coffee. Most of the time I am way too shy to talk to strangers. Most of the time I work at a desk. Or on a couch. Or on the floor. Or anywhere really, as long as I have a computer.

Before this, I worked a bunch of tech-y jobs. You know, the kind that are in the news for their lack of diversity and cool but also weird and borderline-creepy perks. I’m usually one of several women in my tech classes and the only woman on an engineering team. My generation of techies is 83% male.

Tech jobs are fun and extremely fulfilling, but something about finally working with a diverse group of people fills my soul. Our baristas have got basically every demographic covered (and every hair color of the rainbow) and it is delightful.

Our customers are not the horror stories I heard about before working a customer service job. They’re so sweet. They taught me that I’m not bothering the person behind the counter if I want to strike up a conversation. Of course there’s the occasional hurried businessperson who’s a little brash, but overall, they’re all wonderful, respectful people.

My cafe is in an engineering building at a university. It’s intriguing to get an outsider’s perspective on the… well… unique culture created by the pressures of engineering school. Closing shifts at 1am are crazy busy, opening shifts at 6am are pleasantly full. Apparently, engineers like coffee. Who knew?

I’ve always been fascinated by people. In fact, I got a degree in psychology for that reason and I love this job because the people-watching opportunities are incredible. But I’m not a creeper, I swear.

I love seeing who becomes a regular customer, who becomes an occasional customer, and who comes by once and then goes back to their regular life.

I love the surprised smile people have when I remember their usual order and have it ready for them.

I love when I can tell it’s raining outside because everyone comes into the café to warm up.

I love when friends meet for coffee and suddenly our little café is full of laughter and hugs.

I love watching startups take shape on napkins on our tables.

I love all of it.

People like to pretend they go to cafés just for their daily dose of caffeine, but that’s not the whole truth. They’re here because they love it too.