by Kate Barry, HBC Flower Artist & Barista Extraordinaire
When I was a fresh-faced barista, my manager at the time advised me to pick up some shifts at other stores if I was in need of more hours.
“It’s like vacation,” She said.
As the weather got warmer, I took this advice that following summer and picked up as many shifts at other stores that I could get my Sharpie stained hands on. With each shift that I picked up, I no longer felt new to the company, rather I began to feel a part of the company. Since I have been with the company for a few years now, I have become quite accustomed to the way other stores operate. I enjoy the coziness of Shelbyville’s close quarters, The Loop’s friendly neighborhood vibe, Frankfort Avenue’s serene buzz from the laptops, and even Gardiner Lane’s hustle and bustle. All thanks to picking up shifts at other stores, or my barista vacation.
A barista’s vacation can occur at any time of the year; whether it’s during the summer months when people are going on trips or during the school year when a manager accidentally scheduled that person during a class leaving a barista double-booked. These little escapades into other stores aren’t just a summertime deal. In fact you could see your favorite barista in the morning at Chenoweth Lane and later that day they could be giving you a pick-me-up refill at Longest Avenue.
This summer, my barista vacations have occurred less than previous years but I have managed to squeeze in a few here and there. Recently, I picked up an opening shift at Schnitzleburg, our recent addition. My fellow barista and I were going about our opening shift duties when the nice lady who delivers our pastries in the morning entered like any other day. Arms filled with delicious goodies, she makes her way to the bar before she notices me counting the money in the drawer. I give her a smile and a wave. She has recognized me. She shakes her head, disapprovingly.
“That aint right.” She says. I laugh, mostly to relieve any awkward tension that could possibly occur.
“I’m taking a vacation from my store,” I assure her with a tone that I have not abandoned my post at Chenoweth Lane. She continues to shake her head, mutters something about how confusing it is to keep track of everyone and heads out the door. I had to laugh to myself. Is it that important that baristas stay at their respected stores?
After having an almost identical encounter with the same lady at the Shelbyville location a week later, I couldn’t stop thinking about the matter. I couldn’t come up with a solid answer as to why frequent customers are thrown off balance when they see their favorite coffee-slingers in a different location. Perhaps it triggers that same section of the brain from childhood when teachers are seen out in public. Or maybe it’s a feeling of potential empty nest syndrome in which the customer realizes that their favorite latte artist will, in fact, one day move on to bigger things. Maybe it’s just plain confusing and the feeling of “hey, wait a minute, don’t I know you from somewhere” is too much to handle. Another less grandiose theory I have is, maybe the customer just isn’t expecting to see their favorite barista in another place. All ideas are possible as are many more.
I’d like to offer some words of advice to the confused regular customer who might not be ready to see someone from Eastern Parkway working at WestportVillage. First of all, order the same thing you always get. Don’t worry, that barista may not remember where the lids are exactly but they know what you like. You can trust them. Secondly, relax. They’re not going anywhere. In fact they were probably doing a favor for another barista or needed a few more bucks. Thirdly, this experience will tighten your bond with your favorite barista and who knows perhaps they’ll leave even more room for cream. And lastly, it is perfectly okay to state the obvious and that you didn’t expect to see your favorite barista in a different setting. Perhaps the feeling will be mutual with your barista and you can share a laugh about it. So the next time you see that familiar face who makes that dry cappuccino just the way you like it, don’t worry they are not going anywhere. They’re just on a barista’s vacation.