God Bless the Monkey

Because ‘Follow Your Bliss’ was already taken.

Anyone Still Out There? December 8, 2008

Filed under: Average-Day Prose,Tales from the Shop — kateos @ 4:59 pm
Tags: , , ,

(Times Burned: 0; Wrong Orders: 0; Customers I Want to Slam Over the Head with a Skillet: 0, Major Catastrophes: 0)

In case you haven’t already deduced, I quit my job at DD. I had a whole slew of quitting-related blog posts to share, but as summer came to a close, I simply ran out of time. In case you were wondering, the only reason why I quit was because I knew that I simply could not juggle schoolwork, work, and my personal life. The boss didn’t fault me for it, just was a little displeased that two months of training was going to pot. I was a little sorry, but later learned from a friend that the boss left a few weeks later to focus on schoolwork as well.

Do I miss working there? I miss certain aspects of the job. I miss making coffees. Aside from the pay, I think baristas have it made. I miss feeling vital and independent. I miss the chocolate chip muffins (so bad for you, but so good!). I don’t miss the chronic foot pain (seriously, I could only hobble by the last few weeks). Nor do I particularly miss the people (not that they were mean; we just didn’t get along). I do sometimes find myself feeling nostalgic for the place.

Whether or not I am going back is a wide open question. I already have summer plans for the next two years (busy busy), but I may find myself working there part-time sometime in the not-so-near future. Who knows?

I guess this must be the closure post or something, for me at least. It’s definitely not the end of this blog. I feel like jumping the shark by posting this, but I don’t think this blog will stay inactive for very long. Until then…


Meet the Regulars August 6, 2008

Filed under: Average-Day Prose — kateos @ 10:53 am
Tags: ,

(This is just a few of the many colorful customers who wander into the place whenever I am there. I am covering them here, so when I mention them later on, I don’t have to divert from the main story to explain who they are.)


I. James Branch

His name isn’t really James Branch, but he reminds me so much of the Kissing in Manhattan character that that’s who I regularly refer to him as. Like his namesake, he is quiet, shy, humble, and modestly good-looking. He comes, without fail, every Saturday (and sometimes Sunday), ordering a coffee and two doughnuts to go along with the book he reads in his armchair by the fireplace.


April just dotes on him. She’ll put on her brightest smile and ask in a voice dripping with honey, “So, what’s the book this week?” He’ll give her his shy smile, but never reciprocates, and so we love him all the more. I think everyone knows a James Branch, or wishes they knew one. In all honesty, I hardly know the guy. Maybe I’ve been cornering him into a character he doesn’t fit. But none of that matters, except that he is our resident aloof man-candy, and we wouldn’t want it any other way. 🙂


II. Ron

If DD was Le Cirque (Le Cirque will probably sue me now, just for making this analogy.), he would be the VIP. He has his own special plastic tray (a relic from when DD must have used trays like McDonald’s), and always expects top-notch service. A French cruller, or sometimes a croissant, toasted for five seconds and a coffee with five sugars and three creamers on the side. From the description thus far, Ron seems like a terrible hypocritical elitist, but really, he’s a harmless old man in a scratchy vest, who we love and never tire of serving.


The very first time I met him, he peered at me and asked me why he didn’t know me.


“I’m new,” I said.


“New?” he replied, positively alarmed. “Every time I walk in here now, everyone is new!”


I apologized, and shuffled out of there with his croissant.


“There’s a guy who wants his croissant toasted for FIVE seconds,” I whispered to Josh with fear plainly written across my face.


“Oh, you mean Ron,” he said, walking up to the front. They greeted each other like long-lost friends, and I couldn’t help but fight back my jealousy. You see, Ron is the kind of person you can’t help but want to impress. He’s a tough critic, but a softie when he’s finally come to appreciate you.


Last Sunday, he walked in and I had his usual there for him without him having to utter a single word.


“Hey, you’re coming along there!” he said, before taking his seat next to the window. Coming from him, it was possibly the greatest compliment he could give.

A thousand “yes!”s seemed to sound off in my head and under his stern gaze, I couldn’t help but beam.


Sorry, We’re a Chicken-Free Zone July 29, 2008

Filed under: Tales from the Shop — kateos @ 6:50 pm
Tags: , ,

(Times Burned: 2; Wrong Orders: 3; Customers I Want to Slam Over the Head with a Skillet: 1, Major Catastrophes: 2)


It’s Sunday, and I’m working the afternoon shift from 12-6, something I despise doing but just have to learn to live with, like waiting in line and finding soggy tomatoes in my salads. Ariana, who is even greener than I am (yeah, not possible, right?) is busy manning the drive-thru, though, like me, her eye never strays from the clock. As April heads out the door, Josh hands me her drive-thru headset, which I eagerly slip on. I’m just about ready to explode with excitement after my weeks of training on the headset-less front line.

Of all the times I’ve been through a drive-thru, I’ve never once thought too deeply into how they work. It never occurred to me that while I was ordering, there was a tiny army of human workers listening carefully and assembling my order as I spoke. But that’s exactly how it works.


It doesn’t take me long to figure out how the headset works either. Push the first button and you can listen to the customer and the speaker. Push it again and you can speak with the customer. Push and hold the second button to talk to your drive-thru coworkers. I have no idea what the third button does. Pushing it uncovers no noticeable function. I press it for a little while, then quickly move on.


One major problem is that the headset wire is long and dangling. It’s not too hard for klutzy, uncoordinated me to trip over it as I bend down to pack boxes of Munchkins from time to time. After the third time I’ve tripped and sent the fist-sized machine flying to the ground, I decide it must be made from some sort of elf magic, as it barely leaves a scratch.


Josh ambles over to talk. He’s a nice guy, nearly out of college (Damn, I seem to be meeting an awful lot of those lately.). I glance up at him (he’s very tall) and decide I must have misjudged him when he walked through the door earlier in the morning. He may be gangly and his complexion a little spotty, but from the way he walks and talks, this is clearly his domain.


An order pings in through our headsets, and Josh quickly hurries over to the drive-thru coffee station.


“Hi, welcome to DD. How can I help you?”


“Yeah, I’d like an order of chicken tenders.” We look around at each other, then at the drive-thru camera.


“I’m sorry, we don’t carry chicken tenders.”


“Well, do you guys have anything like chicken nuggets?”


“Uh, no. This is DD. Maybe you want to try McDonald’s.” Josh is struggling to keep the sarcasm out of his voice at this point. The woman drives away without another word, as we shake with laughter and grip the granite countertop to keep from falling over.


“Hey, you got someone up front,” Josh says, and I hurry over to take their order. Before we know it, we’re in the weeds, as car after car lines up at the drive-thru and at the front. I hand the family at the front their change and slam the register shut. Josh yells for me to bring over two donuts for the car at the window, and I’m on it until I feel a tug at my hip, and realize that I’ve locked the register on my headset wire. I pull on it desperately (shit, shit, shit!!) , but I’m stuck as a fly in a spiderweb.


“Joshhhhhh!” I cry out. He surveys the situation with a grave look as he takes a car’s order.


“Do you have the key to the register?”


“No, the manager went home already.” Two more cars drive up, and Josh needs to take them. “Look,” he says. “Take it off. I’ll deal with it later.” I do as he says, but as luck may have it, more customers have appeared at the front. I hope ringing up their orders will help open it, but it stays firmly shut. Josh is back now, and, like our caveman ancestors, resorts to a combination of hitting the cash register and tugging hard on the wire. And then, to our amazement, it’s free. We give an exhausted cheer, and nearly collapse, then and there, on the floor.


I have a newfound respect for my shift-leaders as, everyday, they must think quick on their feet to smooth out my problems. My first instinct when confronted with a crisis is to wring my hands and run around in circles like a headless chicken. Though it doesn’t look too likely, I’m working on it.


Until then, all I have to say is: Thanks, Josh.


Damn Those Filters! July 18, 2008

Filed under: Tales from the Shop — kateos @ 11:29 am
Tags: , ,

(Times Burned: 3; Wrong Orders: 5; Customers I Want to Slam Over the Head with a Skillet: 2, Major Catastrophes: 1)


12PM-2PM is always lots of fun. This is when most of the early morning workers are still here, but business is slow enough for us all to just fool around. April and AJ are throwing towels at each other, laughing and flirting like only best friends/exes can do. He slips an ice cube down the back of her shirt and wriggling like mad, she knocks off his name tag, which falls at my feet. AJ mock-yells at her, so I bend down to pick it up, but he tells me to just leave it. The two are just too cute.


Once I’m done sanitizing everything and refilling the three-compartment sink, I brew a fresh batch of coffee and watch April and AJ rationing the pre-sliced American cheese. It is a mountain of cheese, skyscrapers that tower over all the little people I imagine who live in this Dairytown. They look like Honey, I Shrunk the Kids and they nosh on their own cheesy houses when they’re feeling a little peckish. It’s like those insanely orange Kraft Macaroni n’ Cheese commericals with the dinosaur and the jingle that tries to rhyme everything with “macaroni”. Imagine that without all the noodles dancing around and whatever (now you have a glimpse of what goes on in my head everyday).


I feel like I’m finally on top of things. After an embarrassing morning (the first day of work after skipping a weekend to go to Toronto with family), I’ve really got the hang of things. I can make coffees in record time, and donut disasters are rare (Donut disasters are when I plop a donut into a bag and it lands frosting-side down. Donut disasters = very unhappy customers). I’ve reached the last page of my book of humiliating failures. That is, until I notice coffee is spilling over the sides of the coffee brewer. It isn’t just coffee; the grinds, which have clumped together now, are also seeping out, and for some reason, it looks as if the hole in which the coffee is supposed to drip into the tank is blocked shut. I call over April and AJ, and the look on their faces could not be graver.


“Oh, crap, not again. No no no no noooooo. I want to cry,” says AJ.


“Should I turn it off?” I ask, meekly.


“No, you can’t turn this thing off. It’ll just keep brewing.


“Remember Rachel?” Chelsea says, as she surveys the situation. “The same thing happened to her. She was so stupid. She forgot the filter!” I pray to God that I didn’t forget the filter, but upon racking my brains, I’m not entirely sure I didn’t make the same mistake.


So while AJ and April leave to go fill drive-thru orders, I stand there and watch as the grinds/coffee mixture seeps underneath all the other machines on the countertop and onto the floor. It is a miserable sight.


Once the brewer finally stops, I slide the grinds holder out and, confirming my worst fears, see no filter. By now, I feel like April, who trained me on my first day and has only ever seen me fumble, is just about ready to throw me out of the place. She puts on her I-wish-I-could-hit-you-but-will-try-to-remain-sweet face, and reminds me that it’s only my second week. She points out that it was poor Rachel’s fourth. This cheers me up slightly, but we’re still a miserable bunch as the three of us have to stay past the end of our shift to clean up the soggy mess. I thank my lucky stars the manager left an hour ago, but I know my blunder will surely be fodder for the next week’s DD gossip circles. And months later when this happens again to some poor newbie, it’ll be, “Remember Lena? She was so stupid! She forgot the filter!” Think I’m overreacting? Maybe. But I now have an internal filter alarm installed and fully functional, and not one grind cup has gone into the brewer filter-free ever since.


I Sure Hope So June 30, 2008

Filed under: Tales from the Shop — kateos @ 2:47 pm
Tags: , , , ,

(Times Burned: 2; Wrong Orders: 8; Customers I Want to Slam Over the Head with a Skillet: 2, Major Catastrophes: 3)


It’s a little past one at DD, and the early shifters have left, leaving just the four of us there for the afternoon. The shift leader puts me at the front counter with one-month veteran Natasha (Note: Real names replaced for privacy purposes), but she is quickly dispatched to help the other two employees manage the busy drive-thru window. I watch them hurriedly assemble bagel sandwiches and iced tea, while I pace back and forth behind the cash register, noticing that for once, I feel completely alone. No worries, I figure, since afternoons here are relatively slow.


Before I know it, a middle-aged, tired-looking woman and her grown daughter are in front of me.


“Anything you want, Mom,” the daughter says, as the two of them scan the menu overhead. “My treat.” It takes a little while, but the mother decides on a Medium Toasted Almond Coffee, Sweet n’ Lite. The daughter orders a Small Hazelnut Iced Coffee, Lite with Three Splendas. I move instinctively towards the Iced Coffee dispenser, grab two cups and start filling them with ice. I’m halfway done when the mother pipes up, “Excuse me, I ordered a HOT coffee.” Cursing my stupidity, I ditch the cups, head to the hot coffee dispenser, and frantically start assembling.


“This sugar machine isn’t working,” I mutter to Natasha, who is beside me filling a drive-thru order. She nods, not really listening and dashes off with a coffee. Furious at the sugar machine, which never seems to work for me, I jab the Medium button repeatedly, the machine giving off feeble little spurts with every press. Finally, the little mound of sugar comes rushing out, and I grab a lid, forcing it onto the cup with a little more difficulty than is normal. But by the time I’m finished making the daughter’s coffee, her mother is back at the counter.


“I asked for Sweet and Lite. This isn’t Lite,” she says, now a little cross.


“So sorry, ma’am,” I say, though in my head I’m screaming, “I made it a FUCKING Lite!! If you need a thousand liters of cream to dull the strength of coffee, then don’t fucking drink it, like I do. Geesh.” I’m already back at the dairy machine, adding more cream. By now, the cup is overflowing, and a nice ladleful sloshes onto my wrist as I set it down. Owwww. I knock over the coffee funnel, which clatters on the ground. Frodo (he looks like Elijah Wood) over at the Drive-Thru turns around and laughs at me. The coffee cup that I return to the woman is dripping wet.


“So sorry about…the wetness. Yeah…” I nervously giggle. The woman does not smile back. The queue that has lined up behind them is half thinking of leaving. They stare at me, wondering if they can trust a newbie with their coffee fix. Later, as I am dunking the funnel in antiseptic, I wonder when I’ll ever improve.


However, the day isn’t a complete fail. A sunny, short old man with his tall wife amble into the store later, and they’re the mellow, joking type.


“Can I have a donut?” he asks, turning to her like a kid in a candy factory.


“No, you most certainly cannot have a doughnut,” replies she.


“Two donuts, then.” I grin as they playfully bicker. They don’t complain when I drop the paper bag I was attempting to shake open with one hand or when it takes me a little longer to make their decaf iced coffees.


“You new here?” he pokes.


“You guessed it,” I say, looking down at my tired feet. “Is it that obvious?”


“Nah,” he expertly lies, waving his hand at me. “Listen. You get better at it.”


“Boy, I sure hope so,” I say. He chuckles.


“Pick up your sandwich here, sir,” Frodo calls out from the other counter.


“Bye, dear,” both of them say. On their way out, the old man looks back and calls, “Remember. You’ll get better at it, yeah?” I wave to them, and take a moment to lean my clumsy self against the front counter, savoring a rare moment of peace. “I sure hope so,” I whisper to the racks of glistening donuts lined up for duty and the funnel I dropped, now dry and sparkling clean.


Work…then Wall-e June 28, 2008

Filed under: Average-Day Prose — kateos @ 7:49 pm
Tags: ,

If you come into your local DD and ask for a Medium Lite French Vanilla and Hazelnut Iced Coffee with four Splendas and skim milk and then round it off with three more equally complex orders shot at me one by one without mercy, I may very well drop down on my knees in the middle of the slippery coffee-stained floor and blow my head off right then and there (okay, I was kidding about the last part). Never being a coffee drinker myself, I never understood that some people want their coffee a CERTAIN WAY and that if it is not that CERTAIN WAY, it simply will not do. I think of coffee as coffee. No matter how many glugs of cream and mountains of sugar you add to it, it is still spit-it-out-of-your-mouth intolerable. *sigh* How sheltered I was.


I’ll not go into specifics. Maybe another day, I’ll supply you with witty and insightful tales a la Waiter Rant and Barmaid Blog (two very well-written blogs by the way, bitching about the service industry).


Work is…well, work. It’s tiring. It’s eye-opening. It occasionally scares the shit out of me when I blank out and can’t tell a medium cup from a large and the customer is standing there thinking, “Well, this is great. My Labrador Retriever who drools into his water bowl could tell the difference.” Is it fun? To a degree, yes. Is it boring? Never. Kinda like owning a ferret, I guess.


But the best perk of having a job is that underlying feeling that I am achieving something. I have worth! Sure, I’m only worth minimum wage, but I am out there, I am paying taxes (like shaving, it’s one of the worst things about growing up), I am sipping from the cup of life (I’m pretty sure that’s from Bye Bye Birdie?), and I am (almost) a certifiable adult. Now if only I could drive…


Oh yeah, then I watched Wall-e. It was cute. The end.