I walk into Peets this afternoon, order my coffee and proceed to the waiting area. There I came upon a therapy session of sorts between a patron and the barista. A man standing next to the coffee machine telling the barista about how he’s had a really difficult three weeks and he is finally feeling emotionally stable enough to leave the house. The barista remains quiet, staring intently at the milk foaming in the jug in his hand. There’s another patron within ear shot waiting for his drink. He is wearing pajama pants and a shirt with images of DNA strands on it that says, “On a molecular level, I’ve actually been quite busy”. Too busy to put on pants apparently. Even THIS guy clearly disapproves of what’s taking place.
Don’t get me wrong, I have a rapport with my local barista and I like it. Jim’s great. He knows my name, he knows my beverage. We engage in approximately 2 minutes of small talk and it’s fantastic. Sometimes he even lets me give him an IOU when I don’t realize I’m out of cash until after I’ve ordered. We trust each other like that. But I’m not going to be telling him about my personal struggles.
I feel pretty strongly about upholding a proper boundary between customer and barista because I was a barista myself for some time. I am a people person, I start conversations with strangers on a regular basis, but there has to be a line. I used to have a regular who I’d greet with “Hi how are you doing?” and every day she would not only answer “not so great” but she would proceed to tell me why. When someone in the service industry asks you how you are doing, it’s pretty much the same as saying hi. Not really looking for an answer. I remember one Tuesday morning after a holiday weekend I asked her how she was doing and I was sure this time the answer had to be good….I mean long weekend, beautiful weather….this was it. This was the day I was going to get a “good” out of her.
“Oh I’m sorry, why is that?”
“My cousin’s wife committed suicide.”
“I mean what is he going to tell his kids, they are 2 and 6. ‘Sorry kids, mommy didn’t love you enough to stay alive’”
mouth falls open, eyes dart left to right….searching, searching.
And that is what we call an overshare. I gave her the mocha on the house. And a chocolate roll to go with it. That’s the only kind of help a barista can prescribe. Let’s all remember that.