Sadly, my days of being a barista are long behind me. Those magical days of standing next to a steam arm with nothing but a jug of milk and thoughts of escaping. I’m no longer exposed to the passing coffee fads of the public; the soya milk obsession, the life-or-death necessity to have sugar-free syrup, the-half-shot-skinny-decaf-one-pump-vanilla-one-pump-caramel-cappuccino-with-two-shakes-of-chocolate-on-top.
I often try to block out the memories of the barista life, they cause too much pain to my fragile heart even now; the scars from the coffee machine, still visible on my arm, are a stark reminder of a past life that I have to face every day. Some of us lucky ones do manage to break free from the coffee-bean-shackles and slowly adapt back into society, but we’d be fools to think that we could ever be normal again. The whirr of the coffee grinder is enough to make even the strongest of us cower in fear. It’s a noise of sadness, a noise of dread – the sound that signals a customer is near.
Today, Facebook’s memories service decided that it was time to bring me face to face with those repressed thoughts once more by reminding me of the following list that I posted on my timeline three years ago. It’s all about the groups of people that used to frequent the coffee shop I worked in, and who still haunt me today.
1. The Family – Just the worst. The kids only want cakes, the dad doesn’t care and the mum is out to make this one of the cherished moments of her children’s upbringing and everything must be perfect. Will usually tell you their order with family member’s name included – ‘Ben will have a hot chocolate, Abby will have an orange juice…’
2. The Husband – Forced to order while his wife sits with the John Lewis bags in the corner. He is utterly clueless and goes along with whatever you suggest as he fears the wrath of the ball and chain should her cappuccino be too strong.
3. The Avid Complainer – Always female. There’s something wrong with her drink every time ; it’s too hot, too cold, too strong, too weak. Despite this clearly appalling service she receives, she comes in every day. Baristas would rather play Russian roulette than serve her.
4. The Tourists – They don’t speak English and have no desire to. Will generally point at things or shout in their own language in the vague hope you understand Mandarin.
5. The Christmas Shopper – She’s stressed from meandering around town on a shopping spree and she wants you to know it. Everything is an effort to her and you’re expected to take her drink over because she simply can’t manage with all her bags.
6. The All-Nighter – Is unaware of the concept of a closing time and chooses not to take blatant hints such as the music being turned off, tables being stacked or floor being mopped. You must firmly tell him to leave, preferably armed.
7. The ‘Continental’ Brits – Similar to the above, they can’t comprehend why a coffee shop would be closed at 10pm on a Tuesday evening and will tut, sigh and mumble as they’re turned away.
8. The Adolescents – Generally visit in packs of ten or above and will spend around £1.10 in total. They will happily take up seventeen tables for their tap water and solitary bottle of coke whilst doing nothing but check Facebook on their iPhones.
9. The Cheapskate – Will kick up a fuss about how expensive their order is despite having surveyed the menu for a good ten minutes. Demands an itemised receipt for scrutiny in the hope they can claim they’ve been overcharged by 5p.
10. The Pretend Vegan – Insists on drinking soya milk despite having no intolerance to cow’s milk. Will watch you like a hawk making their drink and ask at least three times ‘is that definitely soya milk?’. They will then look longingly the cakes and utter something along the words of ‘I wish I could have a brownie…life, eh!’
11. The Time-Waster – Wants you to reel off all the syrups, sauces, herbal teas and cakes you sell only to decide on a black coffee and a cookie after a lifetime of deliberation.
12. The Inventor – Will ask for things that are not on the menu, not on display and probably don’t even exist. Refuses to conform and will likely settle for a hybrid of strawberry milkshake and espresso.