Baristas Are Not Neutral

Have I mentioned that I totally *heart* baristas? Of course living in Seattle if I didn’t love them, I’d be reducing my community-love options by about 60%, so it is rather a necessity of life here. That said, I choose to love baristas. It is not about the coffee…though coffee does rock. My love is deeper than the bean….my love is about the art of barista-ness.

On the surface one might think that being a coffee barista is simply about the taking of orders and the delivering of the coffee service. Wrong! Being a barista is much more complex and sophisticated than all that. A barista must not only take the order and serve the coffee, but in doing so said barista is interacting with people in need. I’m again, not talking about the coffee. Sure, we all WANT the coffee….who doesn’t want the coffee? The needs brought into a coffee-house by the masses of mocha drinkers are plentiful and unspoken. The barista must intuit these needs…and the barista as artiste and humanitarian does just that.

This morning, for instance, I went into Cafe on the Ave..because I love their coffee, but I heart one particular barista who talks with me every time I get my 16 oz. iced americano with room. I didn’t walk up to the cashier and say, “i’d love a 16 oz. iced americano, some compassion, and a little inspiration.” No, I just order the coffee….and a cookie. Anyway, this particular barista asked about my weekend. You know how people ask about your weekend in the elevator or other moments when we feel awkward and don’t know what to say? Well, this wasn’t what she was doing. Now maybe she didn’t really care what I did this weekend…but in true barista artiste form….she really seemed like she cared. So, I actually answered.

I am not a big fan of small talk and even a smaller fan of big talk about myself…so usually, I just mumble something about being busy or not remembering what I did and move along. Today, I was in need of connection, to myself, to her, to the world…to something…and my barista friend in her truly most soothing and therapeutic tone asked me about my weekend. So, I shared that my partner and I are training for an Ironman so we biked super far and ran 19 miles. She did the low whistle that people do when you tell them you are doing an Ironman and said, “wow, that’s great.” I heard this as “wow, you are ok.” And it was just the message I needed from the world this morning…that I’m ok.

But, the interaction didn’t end there. 16 oz. iced americano already in hand, she could have just turned her attention to the next coffee order, but she asked “when is it?” I heard, “you look like you are having a tough time. you are ok. when is it?” Projection? Transference? I don’t care what you call it…my barista friend was meeting this unspoken need.

“September 7th,” I replied. She said, “Oh, that gives me goosebumps. How exciting.” I heard, “oh, that gives me goosebumps. how exciting.” She reminded me of my own excitement about the event and how events like the ironman are inspiring for others. In that moment I remembered how I watched the ironman on television when I was a tweenager and how I thought it was impossible for me to do such a thing…even as I longed to be one of those athletes. I remembered Julie Moss ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tRB1p89k7_I ) running, walking, stumbling, and finally crawling across the finish line. I remembered how I cried then and how I cried two nights ago when I watched that finish again on youtube. Sassy Femme wrote about this today…it is not the ability of a human to swim, bike, and run that makes me cry, rather it is the love, spirit, and connection to life that is made visible in these moments.

I mean really, who gives a hoot if I, Cookie the Monster, can swim, bike, and run? That really isn’t the point. The point is about connecting to something within myself and others that isn’t simply physical or mental…but really is a demonstration of what can be felt and done…and not by just the individual. In fact, naming ironman an individual endeavor completely obscures the privilege surrounding most of the athletes participating. Queer Corn and I are privileged with family who love and watch our little girl while we train. We are privileged with enough economic resource to join a gym, buy nice bikes, get good running shoes, go to physical therapy, eat healthy organic foods, purchase entrance into the race….the list goes on. Let’s face it, there are significant economic and social barriers to participating in events like triathlons.

I sometimes feel ashamed about all that privilege….all that access to resource that allows me to do this inane thing. But, my barista friend, a friend Jenn B., Sassy Femme, the Olympics, and remembering that white guilt or any other kind of guilt associated with privilege is really rather unproductive, have all reminded me that i can inspire myself and others to connect to that deeper love and spirit, something I believe our very young country needs desperately right now…and that is nothing to be ashamed about.

So you see, baristas are not neutral…none of us really are. And, none of us are truly disconnected from any other one of us. Every person in my life is in some way contributing to my ability to do this triathlon…have a baby…get a phd…think, feel, live. And hopefully in doing this little big race I will connect with that deeper love and spirit and send it back out.

Thank you baristas everywhere for delivering me with life’s blood…coffee, connection, and love. As my friend Ramona says….Love is Revolution!

While the race hasn’t happened yet….thank you to all of the folks in my world and beyond my immediate world who have made this possible: meg, lucy, zia, otter, jen, trina, mom, dad, robert, aline, pig and petey, the entire extended Reichenbach fam, bob, lois, meghan, gita, ramona, peris, morna, mary, charlie, doug, michelle, sam, everett, number 3, uma, jenn, jeannette, brook, baristas everywhere, the roadrunner, cookie monster, grover, ducky, jamie, kelsey, erica, the women of raising in the rain and first weeks, abba (yes, that abba), john denver (yes, that john denver), the Q Center students (www.qcenter.washington.edu ), the dixie chicks, regina, bell hooks, patricia hill collins, all women and gender queer athletes, judith butler, carla….and the list continues…more later.

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About hejemonster

hejemonster fully believes that the film, the bad news bears (original 1976 version) was actually about her. she proved this in 1978 when she was the only girl on a black and gold baseball team. after striking out, jerry nygren, three times in one game, hejemonster let him hit a triple so that he could keep his ego in tact. darn you sexism!
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