The Coffee Experience

I’ve had straight coffee exactly two times in my life: Winter 2007, and today.  Back in 2007 I was attending Stoney Brook and working at Dunkin Donuts as I didn’t have a car and it was the only place within walking distance that was hiring.  We got free drinks while working and I usually just made myself tea.  Sometimes I’d mix it up with a caramel latte, but that was about it.  One day, however, I remember feeling very tired and deciding to try actual coffee to see if it would help (I knew it wouldn’t, because caffeine doesn’t affect me, but I figured it couldn’t hurt).  The resulting concoction was atrocious.  I kept adding milk and sugar to try to make it more palatable, but nothing worked and it ended up straight in the trash.  I was thoroughly convinced that I was not a coffee person and felt no need to venture down that road again.

 

Once I started making a weekly pilgrimage to Starbucks, my drink of choice 99% of the time was a non-fat, no-whip white mocha. The other 1% of the time I would branch out and try some holiday flavors, usually to be disappointed and go right back to my old favorite.  Today, however, I decided to try my luck with straight coffee again.  Why, you might ask?  Because I’d just finished Howard Schultz book “Pour your heart into it: How Starbucks built a company one cup at a time,” and had just started his newest book “Onward.”  (For those who don’t know, Howard Schultz is the man who built Starbucks from practically nothing to what it is today).  His passion for coffee was tangible.  It’s almost like he’s in love with it— in a way, I’m sure he is.  The mission of Starbucks is to serve the best coffee in the world, and they spend top dollar to make sure every cup of coffee lives up to their high standards.  His passion was so great that it made me want to try that bitter black drink which so many people can’t seem to function without.

 

During our lunch break I headed over to Starbucks and ordered a tall Pike Place roast, black.  I’d learned the hard way with tea that adding sugar and milk to a drink dilutes the flavor to a point where it’s unrecognizable.  I didn’t want milk and sugar with a hint of coffee (if I wanted that, I would have gotten my white mocha), I wanted the real deal.  I wouldn’t say it was love at first sip (coffee is definitely an acquired taste) but even a newbie like me could tell I was drinking the best of the best.  The flavors were full and perfectly balanced and there was no bitter aftertaste.  I couldn’t finish the whole thing (once it cooled down I liked it a whole lot less), but I’m definitely considering trying some of the other blends and seeing what I think.  It’s amazing how one man’s passion can induce people like me to try things we’d already sworn off.  No wonder Starbucks has done so well under him 🙂

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Ego

I’ve acknowledged before that I have an issue with my ego.  My management review yesterday and my experience in training today did not help…..

We’ll start with the management review.  My manager brought me into her office and told me that she thought I had great leadership potential, I was very intelligent, and I caught on very quickly.  She said my progression to my current payment limit after only 3 months of actually working claims was phenomenal.  She did, however, have two criticisms:

1) She was worried about which of my 2 jobs I was more committed to (when she fumbled to find a way to phrase this I just wanted to shake my head and roll my eyes.  You seriously have to ask if I care more about a salaried job or a part time minimum wage job?  And anyway, why is this any of her business?  Yeah, I tried to use it as bs leverage to keep my schedule when they were changing people around, but when that didn’t work, I dropped it and expected her to do the same.  I’ve never been late, left early, taken days off, or asked for special consideration because of it– short lived schedule request (not demand, request) aside–, so seriously, how is it any of her business what I do on my time off?)

2) She was worried because she didn’t always know what I was thinking and sometimes couldn’t tell if I was happy or annoyed or what.  As leaders, she said, we need to be more open, but what she really meant is that we need to be fake happy all the time and never let annoyance show.  She stated that a couple times it seemed like I was a little annoyed with her or other people (only a couple times and only a little?  If that’s all she’s noticed, then I’ve been doing well, considering how she and the other manager are screwing up all of our lives with scheduling and work overload), so she wanted me to work on that so that others on my team wouldn’t feel too intimidated to ask me questions (even though many of them already do).  She also wanted me to try to be more sympathetic to the fact that others don’t always pick up on things as quickly as I do (this is a legitimate thing I need to work on, because I know I can be quite arrogant, internally at least, because I simply cannot understand why other people can’t grasp concepts that seem so simple to me)

Basically, to sum it up, she was saying that I have great growth potential because I’m intelligent and good at what I do, and I should just work on acting like I love my job all the time and being patient with people slower to learn than I am. Tell me something I don’t know…..

Then there was training today.  I have a good memory and I tend to pick things up quickly, especially when I find the concepts easy.  I tend to stay quiet in classes because I don’t want to be a “know-it-all,” but if no one else answers a questions, I’ll bail the teacher/trainer out in order to alleviate the awkward silence.  I ended up doing that a lot today, so that the trainer compared me several times to a sponge and the rest of the class (some team members, some not) were good-naturedly joking about how I was going to get a 100% on the exam and how they were all going to copy off me.  Then during the break, Michelle, who was sitting next to me, all of a sudden mentioned that Liz (the hiring manager who is amazing at what she does) told Michelle that I was “sharp as a tack” and “maybe even too smart for this job,” and now Michelle understands what she meant.  I really respect Liz, so hearing that made me feel good, but underneath the happy feeling was this egotistical voice saying “yeah, I know that already.”

I’m not so far gone that I think I’m irreplaceable or the best thing since sliced bread.  I know I have my flaws. I know there are people even more intelligent than I am.  But seriously, these people need to stop feeding my ego before it gets any worse 😉

Quirky

Today, my coworker Michelle randomly mentioned that my coworker Mark and I would make a good couple.  I laughed and acknowledged that while we do get along well, he has a lot of “interesting” dating adventures, and I’d much rather hear about them than be a part of them.  Later I texted Mark to tell him about the hilarious incident:

 

Me: “Haha Michelle thinks we’d be a good couple lmao!  I was tempted to tell her okcupid says we’re like 15% enemies” 😀

Mark: “Lol that’s awesome! Okcupid does have us at like 65% though :)”

Me: “I don’t have nearly enough baggage for you.” (Side note:  he seriously has issues when it comes to dating. He’s a self-admitted masochist.  Past flings–all in the 4 months I’ve known him– included a clingy psycho, an alcoholic druggy who couldn’t stand to be touched, and now an ex who he keeps going back to even though she’s openly seeing other people and even cancelled on him on Valentines Day because she had made plans with another guy a few weeks before they got back together)

Mark: “That’s probably true.  You are quirky but seem pretty emotionally stable 🙂 lol”

 

That word “quirky” made me stop and think.  I couldn’t decide whether to take it as a compliment, be offended, or not feel anything at all.  One the one hand, I feel like “quirky” has a negative connotation.  The definition of quirky is a “peculiar behavior.”  I’ll be the first to admit that I have idiosyncrasies that other people may find odd, but why does that make me “quirky?”  Just because I don’t fit into the mold of many of my peers, why does that make me “peculiar?”  Why can’t it just make me, me?  Not drinking, not feeling the need to be surrounded by people every moment of the day (I had to lie to get out of eating lunch with the people I spend the other 9 hours of my day with just because I wanted to be able to do some reading), being more mature than the average 22 year old, being more independent and happily single than the average girl, reading more in a year than most people do in their lives…..why do people act like I’m someone to be pitied when they find out I have these traits?  It’s annoying and condescending and I hate it. (Not that Mark meant it that way at all, but his use of the word just made me think of other situations).

 

I know I’m splitting hairs, but there’s just something about that word….I can’t put my finger on it, but I just don’t like it.  I have my habits, I have my idiosyncrasies, and yes, I suppose from an outsider’s point of view, I do have my quirks, but those quirks don’t define me.  I’m me and you’re you.  Why can’t we leave it at that?

 

(PS: to avoid sounding like a hypocrite, since I do stereotype, especially with the new girls at work–I constantly refer to them as blonde sorority chicks….which they are—I just want to clarify that I don’t see them as “weird” or judge them for how they live.  They can live however they want. They are who they are and I am who I am. They might not be the types of girls I want to be friends with, but to each her own, I say.  I just wish other people would say the same.  Sigh)

Relative

It’s amazing how relative distance is.  When I lived in NY, I would see my family and STL-based friends twice a year.  Now that I live here, I see them every couple of weeks.  But now Emily is moving to Champaign-Urbana, which is about a 3 hour drive away, and I’m going to go right back to seeing her a couple times a year, even though a three hour drive is much closer than a three hour flight.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m soooo happy for her that she got a part-time job as a French teacher, but it’s kind of a bummer that she has to move away to pursue her dream.  Since it’s only part-time she’s going to try to find another job to make ends meet, but even if she does, she’s not going to have a lot of extra money for trips back home, and my schedule doesn’t exactly allow for weekend trips up to see her.

 

I know I’m being a complete hypocrite.  I moved to NY for undergrad and will move either to Chicago, San Francisco, or back to NY for grad school. But it’s so much easier to do the leaving than to be the one left behind….

Self-checkout, please!

I’m not a big people person, especially when it comes to shopping.  I dread walking into a store and being assaulted within five steps by a salesperson who then proceeds to follow me around and ask me every five minutes if there’s something they can help me with.  I hate cashiers who try to make small talk when I just want to buy my whatever and go. One reason I’ll never switch from Bank of America is that their ATMs take check deposits and do everything a teller can do and more.  Call me misanthropic (you wouldn’t be far off), but I like fast, efficient transactions with minimum superfluous interaction.

 

My grocery stores in NYC and Edwardsville both had automatic checkout lanes.  I loved it.  I could scan and bag my own things and be in and out faster than if I had someone else do it.  My grocery store in STL does not….and it has some of the weirdest cashiers, two of whom seem to be the only ones working whenever I go (no matter if I go morning, noon, or night, weekend or weekday).  There’s a lady who has ADHD or high-functioning autism or something who always launches into rants about customers and Missouri and whatever else happens to be nearby.  I avoid her when possible.  And then there’s the creepy guy who always flirts with me even though I don’t engage him.

 

The first time he checked me out, he commented on how pretty my blue eyes are.  I get that quite often, actually, and I hate it every time, but I’m used to it, so I just said “thanks,” ended the conversation, and then went on swiping my debit card.  At least, I thought the conversation was ended, but then he kept asking questions about whether they were my real color or contacts, etc.  I answered in as few words as possible and gave him that polite-yet-forced smile which is (to me, at least) a universal signal to stop talking, and ended the transaction asap.

 

The next time, he greeted me with “hey, it’s the girl with the pretty blue eyes,” which is just creepy.  Again, I answered shortly, didn’t ask him in questions, and didn’t return his puppy dog stare and smile.  It’s not that the guy’s ugly, I’m just not interested.

 

Yesterday I had no choice but to go to him again as his lane was the only one open.  This time he started asking me why I wasn’t buying alcohol in the middle of the week since it was the best time to drink.  I told him I didn’t really drink and stared determinedly at the credit card machine, to indicate that I was in a hurry.  But he kept asking questions about why I didn’t drink, etc, etc.  Annoying.  Next time I see him, I need to find a way to work my imaginary boyfriend into the equation to see if that gets him to back off.

 

Sigh….I miss my automatic checkout….

Budget Chic

I tend to have a love-hate relationship with my wardrobe, and right now I find myself leaning more towards the hate side.  I’ve never been one to spend a lot of money on clothes.  I would say the vast majority of my outfits come from Kohls, and generally from the sale racks.  Many of my clothes have been hanging in my closet for literally years, because, up until recently, I had always prioritized other things above clothes shopping and figured that if it was still clean and presentable, why get rid of it?  But the other day while searching for something to wear on my day off, it hit me.  I hate most of my clothes.

 

For the last couple years of college, I was completely aware that my wardrobe was more fitting for a high schooler or college freshman(not a surprising observation, as most of my clothes had been recycled over and over again since high school), but I was okay with it.  I didn’t like it, but I was on a shoe-string budget and the clothes weren’t ratty, so I made do.  But then I got a job at AAA, an establishment with a business casual dress code.  I spent a few hundred dollars putting together a working wardrobe.  Hanging side by side with my high-school/college apparel, it makes the latter look that much more shabby.  I don’t want to look like a 19 year old on my days off, I want to look like a 22 year old.  In years, it’s not a large difference.  In maturity and stage-of-life terms, it’s an eternity (for me, at least.  A lot of other 22 year olds in my office still act like they’re 18 and in a sorority….).

 

Fueled by this loathing, I scoured the Kohls racks last week, searching for what I like to call a budget-chic every-day wardrobe.  It was much harder than I anticipated.  I want to look good, without spending a fortune.  I also want to look young and…well, chic…not matronly.  Here’s the problem:  I’m too small to wear adult-sized clothes and have them look good (ex: while searching for work pants for AMC, I ended up getting a girls–not juniors, girls— size 16 because they fit soooo much better than the smallest women’s size).  Even extra small shirts look like mediums on me, which means I still do most of my shopping in the juniors section.  There are some juniors shirts which look mature-and-yet-chic enough for me, but many of them look cheap or are too trendy or too slutty, etc.    Oh the issues associated with being a young, thrifty (re: cheap lol) professional…..

Culture Shock

I have now worked two shifts at AMC…and it’s certainly not the same as my life at K12.  For one thing, I was a shift manager at K12 who did a lot of inventory and people management day in and day out.  At AMC, I have no authority and I’m back on the front lines doing the entry level work. There’s no possibility of a promotion to my old position due to the restrictions on my hours of availability, and the fact that the jobs I excelled at (inventory control and closing the stand) are either outsourced or happen once a month rather than every night. I knew that’s how it would be when I signed up, but it’s still a bit of a shock.  It doesn’t help that I go from “business-casual, filled with professional, career-minded people” AAA to “unprofessional, filled with high school kids and college drop outs who don’t care” AMC.  Again, such is the nature of the theater business, but that doesn’t make it any less cringe-inducing.  I realize now that K12 was surprisingly professional as far as what was expected from managers and crew members.  AMC is the epitome of unorganized uncaring. Example: At K12, managers wore actual suits (as in, ties mandatory for the guys) and crew members wore black pants and crisp white Oxford shirts.  At AMC, everyone wears black cheap-looking t-shirts….  Luckily I’m not working there because I want to like the job.  I have a job I like (minus the managers).  I’m working at AMC to get extra cash and free movies.  As long as I keep that in mind, I just have to grind through my shifts and look forward to the (admittedly minuscule, but still more than zero) paycheck.