My first semester of college, I worked at a chain coffee and bagel café.
I have always affirmed that every person needs to work in food service at least once in their lifetime. It is difficult to express how exceptionally vital it is that people understand the toil behind where their services come from, and the crucial nature of treating workers with respect.
I have also always held the belief that every person needs to work at least one “crappy job” in their life to fully understand the value of hard work, and better understand how difficult the lives of people who serve them are.
When I first started working through the duration of my employment, I strongly disliked my job with a passion. It was what I deemed could satisfy the “crappy job experience” requirement from my mandatory life-experiences chart. I hated having no time to breathe all week, between my 6AM call times. I grew to despise the aroma combination of robust bagels, hazelnut coffee, human impatience, and boiling desperation. My perfectionist, hypocritical manager who loved picking faults like picking daisies—had a special place in my heart, stored among other people who irk me to the ends of the Milky Way. What I hated most of all were the customers who were disrespectful, intolerant, haughty with their noses two inches too high with the aura of ‘I-have-better-places-to-be.’ By the end, I even came to loathe customers who asked for alterations of menu items, indecisive people who changed their order too often, those who came in five minutes before close—people who had no reason to be loathed.
However, what I didn’t realise was how much I could have appreciated that experience. During my final shift, my boss told me the tragic tale of his failure to follow his dreams, dreams that still existed as he mopped the grim floor of the bagel bakery each day. My arrogant manager bid me good luck, and I believe he truly meant it, because I know he aspires to escape his position to become an engineer one day. My fellow co-worker who split my ‘suffering’ in half over cookies in the break room even teared up, because as a single mother, she only wishes for an opportunity to do something better with her life.
Reflecting back, I realise that there was no way I could’ve hated my job—not to mention, free coffee and bagels at my whim’s pleasure. More so though, I learned what I truly wish I knew growing up—how valuable every penny truly is, the bust-your-ass ache behind every dollar earned. I came to appreciate the art of customer service and human interaction. I was injected with humbleness into my high-maintenance, diamond-encrusted veins. I was bitched slapped into being a more courteous human being—a moral I needed far before the age of eighteen.
I will now never go into a shop or restaurant within an hour of their closing. I will never question nor complain when my food is taking too long. If my order is wrong, I will no longer put up the sass face to the person behind the counter, simply to empty my container of stresses into another vessel. Employers—baristas, cashiers, waitresses, hosts—they are all people, too. Corporations are the dance moms, plotting and bickering behind the wings, putting their children out onto the stage for the world to boss around. There is a certain necessity for us as humans to be gentle with our fellow humans.
I deem myself lucky because I only had to hold this position for four months. There are innumerous people who suffer at a job that they hate for one, five, or a lifetime of years. However, in this sense, I wouldn’t call myself “lucky,” because I made the active decision to leave—to make a change when I was feeling stagnant and dissatisfied. I in no way regret the time spent working my ‘crappy’ minimum wage job, but I learned the skills I hoped to gain, then decided it was time for the next step.