I was in a coffee shop on Park Avenue in NYC awhile back. I want to name the place but have a feeling that perhaps I shouldn't (but if you look closely at the picture you can figure it out). The story can be told without the name, anyway. Imagine it to be Anyplace, USA. The display case featured truffles, pralines, and chocolate bars, salads and sandwiches, freshly squeezed juice and bottled water, granola and yogurt parfaits. Behind the counter, coffee was being ground and pressed, milk steamed and frothed.
It was the last day of a stay in that city and the oatmeal on the menu, topped with lingonberries, called to me as comfort food. While I was eating at a table against the wall, I watched the guy who had waited on me (he looked just like Hugh Grant) look out the window, then turn to his colleague behind the counter, a young woman of light complexion and long blond hair, and say, "The homeless guy's back; every Friday he comes to organize his cans."
He took a black paper cup from a stack of cups, fill it with coffee, and carried it out the door. I leaned back in my seat so as to see through the window what would happen next on the sidewalk outside. He stood talking to the guy with the cans, the steaming cup of coffee already transferred. Interesting, I thought, and proceeded to wonder about the nature of this Hugh Grant-like barrista.
I finished eating then went back to the counter to get some yogurt and coffee to go and said to the young woman, who had also been watching, "Well, that was sure nice of him."
I didn't expect the response she gave. It made me wonder even more, and this time about her as well as him, and about this place and its ethos, and then about what is this thing we call a job description and how narrow or wide should it be.
“Just part of the job,” she said.