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The Barista, the Barber & the Waitress

My well was running dry. Mentally I was beating myself up over tasks and shattered illusions. Some days go exceptionally well, some days nothing goes well. The former are days when you double down and ride the wave. The latter, sometimes, require a reboot.

There are two ways to reboot. One is through exercise and activity that draws you out of your own head long enough to see that the world is what it is and you’ve done your part. Walking often does the trick for me. The other way is through interaction with others. Call friends and family to catch up, or better yet, meet with them somewhere. Some days you just need your core group of professional relationships to pull you through.

I began the morning with a latte. I’ve gotten out of the habit of stopping for a coffee and instead make it at home. As a result I’ve missed out on banter with my favorite barista. She asks me where I’m traveling to this time, used to my answers of faraway places. When there’s no line behind me we talk of gardening and what our kids are doing. For all the turnover in restaurants, she’s been a barista here for years, and I go out of my way for these brief conversations. The jolt of espresso secondary to the banter.

Later in the day, I stopped for lunch at a local Chinese restaurant. Another place I’ve gone to for years, but haven’t gone to in months. The staff there commutes from Boston up to Southern New Hampshire every day, works their shift and returns home late in the night. Six days a week for years on end. The waitress knows my name, and I know hers. Not just the “American” name she introduces herself by, but her real name, which apparently is too complicated for some folks to bother with. She already knows what I’m having, just like the barista did, but confirms before placing the order with the kitchen.

Due for a haircut, I went to the local barber on a quiet part of their day. He smiled and sat me right down, and we talked of football and the return of mask mandates. He confided that he doesn’t know if they’ll make it if there’s another shutdown, and I responded that it was unlikely this time. Enough of us are vaccinated, right? … right.

Three people that I have a professional relationship with, each offers just enough of themselves to make my day and reset my outlook for the rest of it. Each deeply impacted by the pandemic, each vaccinated (all Pfizer, like me) and cautiously optimistic about the future. If I ever hit the lottery I’d walk in and give each of them a million dollars, because that’s what they make their customers feel like. Since I haven’t won the lottery, I pay them a million each in installments, one tip at a time. Knowing that it’s not enough for the boost they’ve given me.

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