Remy, the French-American, only-child owner of Mojo Bicycle Cafe, hired me as a barista despite my not having had any experience, and let me tell you, my two months as a barista was an experience.
As the new guy I, naturally, was gifted with the most sought-after shift - the one starting at 6:15 in the morning. Waking up at 5:15 and biking to work (a mere four-minute commute) in the dark five days a week went against my grain but taught me that I could get by, even if painfully, on just a few hours of sleep if need be. And the real beauty of the early-bird shift?: being finished at 12:30 each day.
Not only did I learn my limits of sleep and my appreciation for being a free bird in the afternoons; I also learned during my tenure at Mojo that:
1. consistently pouring the perfect shot of espresso is not an easy feat; in fact, it is an art form that is pretty exacting. The shot should be "tamped," for instance, with thirty pounds of pressure, and a good one-ounce shot should pour for no longer than thirty seconds.
2. the only difference between a cappucino and a latte is the consistency of the milk. Who'd a thunk it?
2. people love to feel like they're king of the castle, and making them feel this way is as easy as, "Good morning, Susie Q. Would you like your ususal decaf soy latte?"
3. baristas are not tipped the way bartenders are. What's with the double standard, folks?
4. opening a coffee shop with only a handful of pennies in your register (because your co-worker who closed shop the night before accidentally pocketed the keys to the cash boxes) is pretty trying, but yours truly managed to pull it off.
5. opening a coffee shop with your coworker named Jesus, who's almost always hungover (and who spends a good part of the shift getting sick in the bathroom), is pretty trying, but yours truly managed to pull it off.
6. being a barista is a lot of fun. I relished getting espresso grounds all over my clothes; listening to my eclectic Pandora station throughout my shift; getting hopped up on caffeinated beverages; being a part of the SF bike culture (and getting free tune-ups by great mechanics); and eating free pesto-mozzerella sandwiches and other free, tasty things at the end of each shift. And did I mention being finished by 12:30 each day?
So why did I give up my lush barista lifestyle? Well, once again a little (or big?) fortuity was at play, and Alice Howell, my good friend - or should I say, "guardian angel"?, got me moving in the right direction by getting me a job at a high-end, adventure travel company. If it weren't for that, my complacency may have led me to be a lifelong barista; I was a little apprehensive about losing my Mojo, but I said good riddance to predawn hours and micro-management and hello to Geographic Expeditions.