Tell them that this is the way it works, and I know better than them.
Peggy (Mad Men S2E8)
“Panini poulet parmesan, s’il vous plait,”
requested a customer. Having been training at Columbus Cafe in Reims, France for the past month, I knew exactly what I needed to do – pop the panini into the oven for 1 minute & 5 seconds – the perfect amount of time to melt the cheese, warm the fillings, and lightly toast the bread.
I take the panini over to the oven, but on this particular day in October 2016, someone had left a 15-tier cooling rack filled with muffins right in front of the oven. It wasn’t directly in front, but enough to create a slight inconvenience when opening the oven door. Siiigh!
Feeling a little under pressure to serve the customer within a reasonable time frame, I remembered my coworker’s infamous life philosophy: “There are no problems. Only solutions.” I conducted a quick analysis of the situation. Aha! Voila! It’s possible to fandangle myself between the cooling rack and the oven with juuussst enough space to open the oven door and pop the panini inside. A jolted inhale, a pair of awkwardly flailing arms, and an impromptu game of limbo later – Slam! Beep! Beep! Boop! – the deed was done!
Feeling like the queen of the world for finding a quick and easy solution, I began my victory dance only to be met by a wholly, entertained chuckle from my fellow barista, Charlemagne* who just so happened to be watching the entire fiasco go down. “You always do life the hard way, don’t you?,” he quipped. Then with minimal effort, he rolled the cooling rack away from the oven, leaving a much larger margin of space; no limbo required.
And this, my friends, is how I approach life
– attacking problems with solutions that require the most effort, just like Peggy from Mad Men. It’s not that I’m incapable of considering more convenient solutions, in actuality, I enjoy the challenge of implementing ambitious solutions and I’m absurdly curious of their results.
That’s probably how I ended up where I am today – on an epic #internationalcoffeejourney with very limited funds and resources. Because why not!?! Why not take the road less traveled despite its gargantuan potholes? And if you fall, just get back up, dust yourself off, and keep on going or look for other side streets. What’s the worst that could happen?
Do you also take the road less traveled?
Just a quick update:
As I mentioned in the previous journey update, I’ve finally secured a job at a cafe in Paris: Direction Coffee – a 3rd wave, hipster-style café; the brainchild of Columbus Café & Co. – a second-wave, Starbucks-style institution. Direction Coffee will be located in Paris’ Marché International de Rungis – the largest wholesale food market in the world.
And since this brand new cafe won’t open its doors until Nov 7th, 2016, my job training was held at another Columbus Café location in Reims (1.5 hour drive from Paris) from Sept. 2016 to Oct. 2016. To say the training was an amazing experience would be an understatement. I mean, just look at how cute my coworkers are! I’ve also learned
15 Essential Life Lessons:
- The team at Columbus Café in Reims are definitely the coolest cats in Coffeeland. It’s not every day that you get to work with such lovely ladies & gents who start Disney singalongs at work because on s’en bats les couilles!
- They can also confidently communicate in English with non-French-speaking customers, despite having taken only a few English classes during their early years of schooling. It’s very impressive.
- Being told, “Your English is pretty good” by English-speaking customers is a strangely undeserving compliment. Why, thank you, it comes naturally to me.
- Sex jokes are the same in EVERY language. No subtitles required.
- A boss who micromanages is like getting popcorn kernels stuck in your teeth. They’re horribly annoying and if left unattended can cause major problems down the road.
- I can give quality work or quantity of work, but never both. I prefer to give the former.
- Feelings can be contagious. If you are stressed, I will be stressed.
- Like a skit straight out of a Mr. Bean comedy, there is nothing funnier than having a customer trip on a step leading up to the second floor of the cafe, spilling a large hot chocolate and a large chocolate milkshake all over the wall and down the stairs, especially when the cafe is packed and the queue is out the door. You have to laugh to keep from crying.
- Customers are so weird and wonderful and definitely the best part of my day.
- Not all people are rainbow-pooping unicorns. Some people will take advantage of your open door policy and steal your stuff. Boo!
- If you smile genuinely, 98% of customers will return your smile. The other 2% are those non-rainbow-pooping unicorns.
- I thought all French people were slim, fashionable, eloquent demi-gods, and then, I left Paris …… o.O
- For the first time in my life, I UNLOCKED MY BEAST MODE in public!!!! I confronted someone using direct communication instead of passive aggressiveness, and it wasn’t so scary even while doing so in a second language. Take that, shy & awkward past self! Booya!
- Anyone can work a coffee machine, but not everyone can make a good cup of coffee.
- No one in France knows what a barista is.
The leaves are beginning to change colour, a symbol that it’s time to pack my bags and move on. I’m back in Paris now, and am ready to start the next leg of my coffee journey at Direction Coffee.
As always, thank you for reading and joining me on this #internationalcoffeejourney
*names changed to protect the privacy of the individuals
Whatever makes coffee grow, I’m into that.