Nancy Drew & the Case of the Surly Barista

I'm not proud to admit it, but for the past couple days I've had a bout of the Barista Blues, and I'm sorry to say that despite my best efforts, I'm afraid wore 'em on my sleeve a little bit.

Oh, you know the type: sudden and inexplicable irritability, territorialism, indifference, lack of patience, exhaustion, heavy sighs, excessive frustration, exaggerated reactions to things, and absolutely worst of all, often-questionable service.

It was a pretty mean set of grumps, and while I really did agonize over maintaining a level of friendliness and helpfulness, I wasn't acting up to my own standards (which are pretty high -- I'm a Virgo, after all).

As a person and a coffee professional who rarely accepts excuses from anyone, I hesitate to make any for myself. But I do know that, personally speaking, eliminating the Blues is simply a matter of learning to let go, to be more confident, to just be kinder, to stop being so hard on myself that I completely shut down, and to remember that there is always something more important to do or be done. Always.

In an effort to shake 'em off, I have been reminding myself of the moment when, two weeks ago and apropos of nothing, one of my prized baristi, James, turned to me and said "Meister, you're so much nicer than you used to be."

And I think he's right -- I really used to be a lot more uptight, a lot less fun to be around, and a lot more like a boss than a barista. I had a major and problematic tendency to blame myself for every single thing that went wrong, be it running out of cups or having a dirty floor or a staff member whose close was sloppy.

Over the course of this past year, however, I have actively done so much work to learn how to chill the heck out about work, and how to encourage people to do their best without sounding pushy or condescending, and most of all how to enjoy my job and my coworkers and have fun. While I'm still struggling with it, I do feel like it's something I work hard at every day.

James's sentiment, then, is the kind of that really warms a dame's heart, and it's also something to try to live up to proudly. I'm disappointed but not defeated when I have to say something like, "I'm sorry, I failed you all this week."

Well, sure I did. Fine. But there was last week, and there is this week, and there will be next week. It's getting better all the time.

So let this be a reminder to myself -- and also to any coffee lover and service employee: Remember what it feels like to look across a counter into the eyes of somebody who's got a mean case of the Barista Blues, and learn to shrug it off and smile with every drop of espresso -- even on the hardest days.

Because let's face it, we are the luckiest people in the world.