Fiction, nonfiction, and poetry from our favorite emerging writers
Christina Miranda is a writer who has been featured in the Watershed Review, and serves as the co-founder and Literary Editor for Latinx Spaces- a publication dedicated to showcasing Latinx writers and other artists. She currently lives in Austin, Texas.
No one really cares about you when they’re hungry. To hell with you if they need coffee or a drink.
You’d think they would love you, you know?
I’m the one who gives them their coffee.
As much as I enjoy my line of work, everything has been too off for all of us who work in the service industry. Being a barista in the middle of the pandemic has become more difficult the deeper we fall into its severity. All this has certainly brought out the goodness in some, but it has also revealed the ugliness in so many. Funny what the plague can do, huh?
Now darling, why did you take this job? You signed up for this so just shut up and make my drink.
I took this job because it was one of the few that doesn’t destroy my whole soul, Kevin. Honestly, I love making coffee. I’m good at it, and it gives me the flexibility to do what I want outside of work like applying to grad school and writing in my spare time. You know, the things that will provide me a better quality of life. At some point I have to get out of this. You can only stay at the party for so long.
And there are plenty of others out there who love being in the service industry and make their career out of it. It’s exciting and humbling being on the floor. It makes you pay attention while keeping your feet on the ground. Between your favorite office buddy and a server, I would much rather hang out with the server and anyone who works in a kitchen.
They’re some of the best people in the world, and you know it too. They are the ones you always love to serve you when you go out. They take care of you when you’re hungry. They make your cocktail just right. It’s why you always want to talk to your bartender, ask for your server’s name, or fantasize about that cute barista you’re always thinking about and keep trying to talk to while they’re busy.
By the way, stop doing that. It’s creepy, Kevin. Just stop it.
What I didn’t sign up for was having to choose between not being able to afford rent and food, and insurance, because I desperately need it right now. And risking my life for your latte was not in the plan. You get to work from home. I don’t.
How bad can it be? I’m sure people know better.
The people are still pretty terrible during a pandemic, Karen.
So what do you want from us? It’s your job. Do it.
Yes, it is, but I need you to care, Kevin. I need you to be aware that this isn’t normal for us. We might not look like we’re terrified, but we have to hide that or else the whole room panics. We really do have bills to pay, and panicking doesn’t help.
Trust me, we all wish we could take time off. We all want to stay away from it all and work from home and take care of our bodies. But we can only do so much when the unemployment runs out or when we need to see a doctor. There isn’t much of a choice for us. So you could say I’m in this for the long haul.
I’ve been in the service industry since moving from El Paso to Austin, Texas in 2012 to start college as an English major. As soon as I arrived I immediately started working. I couldn’t afford to rely on nothing but loans to pay for college and housing. I had to work full-time while going to school full-time. It wasn’t easy for me, an awkward, literature-loving Latina from Socorro to keep up with the other students who were miles ahead of me and discussed their favorite writers whom I had never heard of. While they went on and on with their conversations, I hung out in the corner watching, wondering if I even belonged there at all.
It was extremely difficult to focus solely on studying because I didn’t have “parents who really love me” to pay for everything. I struggled with depression and anxiety and still do to this day. But I learned how to get good at what I do.
It took a while, but I did it. I have been a lunch lady, a hostess, a snow cone maker, a terrible backwaiter, and eventually a pretty good barista. And I didn’t hate it, so I took that as a sign.
Yeah, I’ve had bad days at work. I’ve been physically shaken over the price of the oysters. I’ve been yelled at by drunk and sober people. I thought I was getting robbed once, but he actually just wanted to show me his very perpendicularly erect penis. But none of that has made me want to go home to cry under the covers and never go back to work again. You suck it up and move on.
There’s obviously been much better days where others have shown their love and kindness. But when people want to fight with you, they really go all in. People have fought with me about having to put on a mask. It’s not that hard, Karen. They get overtly annoyed when they
can’t get a clear answer on when all this will be over. I don’t have clear answers either, Kevin. When the larger issues went away, the little ones began to accumulate. They aren’t life threatening, but they do weigh down on you once they add up over a few days. These are just a few that get to me:
1. Touching my fingers as I’m handing people their coffee cups. It wasn’t an issue then. Don’t make it one now.
2. That one lady who throws her credit card at me so her friend can’t pay.
3. That one man who always throws cash money at me. Stop throwing things! It’s rude. 4. The people who tell you to your face that they don’t want to tip you while you fill out the
payment screen for them. It’s a bold move, and makes you the biggest asshole in the world. I will remember you and hate you forever. I will give you decaf.
Side note: Whose idea was it to say, “No thank you,” to refuse a tip? What are you thanking me for?
5. That person who stuck their fake eyelashes to a protective barrier we have set up for community tables and left them there. Why? Just why?
6. The people who don’t buy anything and throw you dirty looks as you tell them to buy something during their conference calls. We’re a business, not a library. It might not be my business, but it’s my paycheck.
College kids, you all need to buy something, and the rest of you need to tip us too. Seriously.
Now you can’t say that you didn’t know or you can’t afford the extra few cents. I saw you drive up in your daddy’s BMW.
Adults, you need to grow up and be the bigger person. The attitudes I have seen from all of you isn’t a great look. I don’t care about your Yelp review either.
On a pandemic-free day, this would just be me complaining. And as I said, I’ve certainly had worse. But they get under my skin now. This is different. There’s a serious effect to your actions.
The one that truly sent me over the edge wasn’t even as bad compared to the rest. But it killed me. And I wasn’t even at work.
I was at home when I received a text from a co-worker: a photo of a security camera screen pointed towards a puffy chair.
About this chair, we taped a sign to it reading “DO NOT MOVE THE CHAIR!” It’s too close to the other chairs around it, so we turned it to face the wall, assuring its unavailability. The text reads, “Well she definitely didn’t move it.”
And in the chair is a grown woman, barefoot, reading a book.
I lost it. Who does something like that? What kind of disregard for seating standards would compel you to sit in a blocked off chair facing a wall? And one that isn’t even easy to climb into in that position?
Out of all the things that I have had to put up with, it took that small moment to break me. All the frustration of having to work in a coffee shop, in Texas, during a pandemic where cases are high, all flooded in. I teared up and shook in anger, too frustrated to calm down, which is something I haven’t done since we went into lockdown. If I accepted one thing that day, it’s that people don’t care about us. They don’t care about our standards, our lives, and efforts that we have made to put ourselves out there so you can go out and read your book to quell your boredom.
There is nothing I would love more than to leave. But there isn’t much to do in the middle of a pandemic. Experience is pretty minimal outside of the restaurant business. How can you get people to understand where you’re coming from when they don’t even notice that this affects them too?
Almost every day I struggle to find the good in most people. I just need you to understand, Kevin. And it’s not just Kevin and Karen anymore-it's all of you. You’re letting your guard down.
You get annoyed at the seating arrangements. The risk of dying never crosses your mind in this vanilla and coffee-scented vacuum. You can hurt both of us if you’re not careful in my space. Please don’t move that chair over there for your cute Instagram photo.
I know that this stress has affected you too in some way or another, but you do not get to take it out on me. I am not a void for you to scream into.
So what do you want from me? That’s an answer I don’t even have for myself. If you think everything is back to normal over the sight of a mere coffee shop or a restaurant opening back up, it’s not. This isn’t normal, and we have to pretend the flames aren’t getting bigger. We’re doing everything we can just to make sure we don’t burn ourselves.
What I want from you is to give us a chance to take care of ourselves. We’re trying as hard as we can.
Neither of us signed up for this. Now please, go put the chair back.