One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish.
The world is a complex and confusing place…
full of red fishes with blue fins and blue fishes with red fins and some fishes with no fins at all, all fighting for our attention on a daily basis. What are we to do with all these fishes? How do we categorize them? Thankfully, our brains are hardwired to identify all the fishes of this crazy world and store a copy of them in the archives of our minds. This organizational process is instantaneous, which lightens our mental load, and makes the identification of new stimuli seem almost effortless. Imagine if every time we meet our mothers, we had a brain fart? Gosh, that would be an awkward….ly funny family dinner!
our brains are not foolproof. This organizational process can also be quite destructive. Due to our misconceptions, the brain often mislabels and falsely categorizes stimuli, and to top it all off, it’s also very lazy. Once a stimuli is labeled, it takes a great amount of effort to remove a stimuli from our mind palaces, then, tear off its label and re-categorize it. Thus to save mental energy, we tend to leave stimuli in their original although incorrect compartment. Perhaps when you were a kid, you decided, “Fish is yucky,” until you convinced yourself later on that it’s actually not so bad. Perhaps as an adult, you’ve thought, “All Conservatives/Republicans are stupid,” or “All Liberals/Democrats are crazy.”
To tell you the truth…
I am guilty of mislabeling, and it almost cost me an incredible life-changing experience. Since my last journey update: To Quit or Not to Quit, which commemorated a year of working as a barista at Direction Coffee in France (Sept. 2016 to Aug. 2017) and my subsequent return to Canada, Life, the unpredictable lady that she is, has been throwing plenty of unexpected curve balls my way.
Like a personification of Tony Bennett’s infamous song, “I left my heart in San Francisco,” well, I left my heart in Paris, and I needed to go back for it. Thus, I hightailed it to the French embassy in late Sept. 2017 and applied for a subsequent Working Holiday visa, which would grant me an additional 8-months in my home-away-from-home, but starting in December 2017!!! Ahh… I couldn’t wait 3 whole months! My heart was calling me! So, posthaste, I repacked my suitcase, kissed my mama goodbye, and headed straight to the airport.
When I arrived in la belle Paris…
October and November, 2017 were filled with reunions and birthday celebrations, and before I knew it, the Christmas season was at my doorstep, which meant I was officially allowed to work in France. To transition from a Tourist visa to a Working Holiday visa, I hopped, skipped, and jumped over to Ireland and England for a few days, though once back in France, Christmas and New Year’s zoomed by, and there I was in mid-January, 2018 sitting on the couch next to my dear friends RoRo* & Damiam* balling my eyes out!
After two years of involvement in the café industry…
I was right back where I started: no job, no money, and no prospects. Being in a committed relationship at the time, I was living with my significant other in a small town an hour from Paris, where specialty coffeeshops weren’t a thing. Ironically, this town was called Corbeil, which means garbage in French. RoRo* patted me on the back, told me to grab my coat, and we headed to the nearest mall, to hand out resumes! It was like a flashback to 16-year old me except 11 years later, here I was handing my CV and lettre de motivation to none other than the manager of McDonald’s.
My career and my pride had hit an all-time low.
This is when I failed to reorganize my thoughts. Hence, before I even handed over my resume, I labeled this potential experience at McDonald’s as “null and void!” And two interviews and an hour video-tutorial later, there I was standing behind the counter at McCafé in an over-sized burgundy and beige uniform ready to confirm my suspicions. Yet, zoom forward a month and a half, and this experience has been relabelled: INVALUABLE
For four particular reasons:
I) Working for McDonald’s is like enlisting in the military.
Upon enlisting in this international army, you are given two items: a clean uniform and an identification number. It is imperative to guard both of these items with your life. On your first official day, you are introduced to one of [too] many commanding officers, opps, or power-hungry managers, rather, who, after inspecting your uniform and general decorum, will hand you an obnoxiously thorough manual of McDonald’s rules and regulations, including, but not limited to, the exact distance (in millimeters) that is required between each individual macaroon in the display case and how frequently one should wash their hands throughout their shift. Did Miss Pillsbury from Glee make this manual? Your role as a soldier, sorry, an employee is to decipher its multitude of pages and uphold them to a tee. Failure to do so, no matter your level of former experience at McDonald’s, will result in public humiliation and swift punishment.
II) There is no “i” in team.
Are you new at McDonald’s and don’t know how to complete a task? Asking the current manager in charge will be an unfortunate waste of time, not to mention, you will be made to look like a complete fool. Instead, copy your comrades in arm… aprons. Lucky for me, I was sanctioned to an exceptional team of baristas at McCafé who taught me everything I needed to know about McDonald’s way of service. Not just baristas, these 6 women were WARRIORS, each with their own strengths and talents. Some were wickedly organized, some were astonishingly creative, and some were divinely just. Together, they added that touch of class, intellect, and charm to the normally boorish McDonald’s service.
III) Mass consumerism is a bandaid solution on a much bigger problem.
Being a minimalist and growing up in a low-income family, mass consumerism bothers me to the nth degree. To put it simply, mass consumerism is one of many thorns in modern society. Consequently, it exploits labourers, wastes resources, and encourages narcissism just to name a few problems. As a solo traveler on a limited budget, I have to be conscious of how I live my life and how my life impacts the world around me. Overall, I prefer having a few long-lasting, high-quality experiences, relationships, and items in my possession rather than having an excessive amount of disposable ones. Does this make me better than the mom who has to buy Family-sized items on sale at Walmart and takes her kids to McDonald’s as a treat? Or the single gal who buys designer items and eats only at fine-dining establishments? Nope, because if we look at the bigger picture, “wanting more” is intuitive to every human being, and mass consumerism is just a band-aid solution on this internal struggle that we all deal with. I may not care about having the “American Dream” with kids and a mortgage or the “Celebrity Lifestyle” with brand names and caviar, but I still have feelings of discontentment. From time to time, I fall into irrational despair of not being smart enough, beautiful enough, healthy enough, or conscientious enough and so I, like everyone else, throw my money, time, and effort at easy, temporary solutions, instead of giving myself a thorough soul cleanse. Contentment, as is mass consumerism, is a choice.
IV) Everyone has different needs, but we all want to be understood, and that requires only an minute of our time and a ounce of our consideration.
During one of my shifts, I had a customer approach the counter during rush hour. When it’s busy at McCafé and I’m working alone, I will usually start to prepare the order of the previous customer while I take the order of the following. Multitasking! I hate doing this because it distorts the lines of communication between myself and the client, hindering customer relations, but most customers have limited patience, especially during rush hour. Nonetheless, this particular customer wouldn’t play along with my little multitasking scheme. He refused to tell me his order after I tossed the customary, “Bonjour monsieur, qu’est-ce que vous voulez commander,” over my shoulder. I could feel the other customers in line getting tense, and even I was getting a little flustered. However when I glanced up from the coffee machine and looked at the customer, I finally understood why he wouldn’t respond. This man couldn’t respond because he had profound deafness, and to order his coffee, he had to slowly sign his order, while I gave him my undivided attention. That’s it! All he needed was a few minutes of my time and a few ounces of my consideration. I will always feel ashamed for not giving them to him immediately. Regrettably, I think I often neglect, sometimes intentionally, but mostly unintentionally, to give people the two things we all need: time and consideration, and for that I apologize and I intend to do better.
These four life lessons are imprinted on my mind…
and will stay with me as I take on the next chapter of my life. Actually, I’m leaving the fast food industry and entering a high-end café establishment, but still, I must be remember to label any potential experiences with care and consideration before I file it away in my mind palace.
As always, thank you for reading and joining me on this #internationalcoffeejourney
*names changed to protect the privacy of the individuals
I did it my way