I'd been reading my poetry at this place's open mike for quite sometime when, lo and behold, I found myself unemployed again. Times weren't all that hard though. I was sleeping in a sleeping bag in a room of the barren two bedroom apartment I shared with another writer friend of mine, Johnny.
Our only furniture was a bed in the living room that simulated a couch -- neither of us slept on it -- and a bucket filled 2/3rds with water to use with a gravity bong. Rent was cheap, overhead was minimal. It was, unfortunately mid-month, so I had to come up with some income pretty quick.
The result: I got a job as a barrista in this poetry dive coffee house run.
My boss and owner, Barbara, was probably the outright stupidest person I ever worked for -- the kind of person who'd forget why she was yelling at you while she was yelling you -- and then have the audacity to ask you if you remembered. I mean at first I thought it was some kind of asshole-ish trick to see if I was listening to her but quickly I realized that she literally could not hold a train of thought for more than like 90 seconds. I learned to use that to my advantage a number of times:
"Yes Barbara?" She'd come up to me slightly hunched, face balled up in an expression of possible irritation, but conveying an air of total confusion.
"Did you just give that guy a double mocha for coffee price?"
Of course I had, he's a friend of mine, so I say: "Yes Barbara, you said that I could make my friends drinks for a dollar as long as I wasn't using ice-cream in them." Total lie.
"I did not."
"Well, you did, but I'll stop if you want."
"When did I say it?"
"Geez... about a week or two back."
"Hmm... well lets just say half price okay?"
"Yeah sure, whatever you want -- 1/2 price?"
In actuality she had originally told me that my friends couldn't get discounts, but hey, that was like a month or so prior. Anyway, apply that model to any confrontation I might have with her and you can begin to understand the entertainment factor this job offered... at first...
This one day she asks me to do inventory of all the goods in the shop. No problem. I ask her if that also means the perishables in the fridge, which are generally monitored more closely, and as I ask she waves me off -- which I translate into "No."
An hour passes. I give her a list of goods, she says: "What about the produce? GOD SEAN- 'INVENTORY' is a SIMPLE concept!"
I swear my hand twitches in want to knock her down. "Sure Barb', no prob' mein Fuher!"
Her stares daggers at me. I inventory the produce and give her the now complete list...
"This says we only have 3 and a half straws left. I can see more than that on the counter, and why do we just have half of a straw? Throw that away."
I am vaguely dumbfounded by this, "...uhh -- heh -- No, that means we have three and a half boxes of straws left..."
"THAT doesn't tell me how many straws we have left!!"
Openly dumbfounded now, "...Barbara? Are you saying that you want me to count the individual straws?"
"INVENTORY IS A VERY SIMPLE CONCEPT SEAN!"
"RIGHT. Surrre. I'm on it Barb'."
I think the grand total was somewhere around 3,650 straws... 4,800 some odd amount of swizzle sticks and roughly 1600 napkins. I counted them all aloud over the course of the rest of my shift and anytime anything, especially her, would interrupt me I'd "lose count" and have to start over. For some totally inexplicable reason this behaviour seemed to totally placate her!
I ended up quitting this job when she decided one day, on the spot, that we needed to change the chocolate ratio we used in the mochas we made. That thought apparently consumed her so much that she grabbed my hands, in front of a bunch of customer, and literally tried to physically restrain me from making the drink INSTEAD of simply asking me to stop. I don't care who you are you just don't do that kind of shit unless you're saving a child from grabbing a pot of boiling water.
I slammed the pitcher down and we both got splashed with near scalding milk. She jumps back. I look at the guy who is at the front of the line and he looks at me with both pity and confusion (as to whether he would get his mocha any time soon or not). I calmly walked over to copy down my hours and Barbara stands with her arms out, supplication style, and busts out with:
"YOU'RE GOING TO FINISH THAT MOCHA, RIGHT?"
People in line even laugh at her. I shake my head and walk out. It was either that or rip something off the wall. Next time I saw her she was chipper and cheery. She gave me my last check like she'd just sold me a latte and I don't think it was because she was trying to amicably usher me away, but in fact that she just simply could not even retain anger for longer than 90 seconds.
Dope addled hippie burnout.