By Kenneth Justice
~“Dude, this is one of the greatest jobs in the world” she said
~ For the past seven out of eight weeks I’ve been in different U.S. cities around the country visiting with fellow bloggers and readers on what I’ve been calling my Drinking in the Culture Tour, my excuse to escape the daily grind and experience culture outside of my normal routine. This weekend I’ll be in Boston, a city I’ve never actually hung out in before.
Most weekends I usually end up hanging out with the owners or managers of the coffee shops I visit and listen to them share their thoughts on coffee and all things coffee culture. The owners are often some of the nicest people I’ve ever met; and I’ve been overwhelmed with gratitude in how welcoming they have been in the little coffee house tour I’ve thrown together.
However, In Minneapolis two weeks I decided to sneak in unannounced; I wanted to get a different flavor of a local coffee shop without being given the start treatment that many of the coffee shops have given me.
So there I was at Bull Run Coffee in Minneapolis, just another customer ordering an espresso early on Saturday morning, and after the young woman behind the counter took my order she didn’t stop there,
“So do you have any plans for the day?” she asked, as though we were friends that had known each other for years. Her tone was pleasant and warm, it wasn’t merely a rehearsed line that some corporate white collar boss forced her to say to every customer, but rather this young woman had a genuine interest in me as a fellow human being.
Have you ever been to a chain restaurant or store and listened to a cashier or employee read to you the rehearsed spiel that they are forced to say to every customer; “Thank you for coming to No-Name food, where service is our second priority most of the time, may I take your order please?” So many of those types of places seem to breed employees that sound like robots instead men and women who generally care about their clientele.
As I sat there at Bull Run Coffee and worked on my writing early that morning, I watched how Sarah behind the counter interacted with the various customers who came in; she knew nearly 80% of the people by their first name. She tended to almost always know something about their lives, “How’s your wife Angela doing Bob?” she would ask, “Everything going well in your medical studies Jamie?”
Sarah clearly loves people and loves connecting with them, “This job is one of the best jobs in the world” she said to me. Born in Vienna, Sarah’s parents worked with Rwandan Refugee’s during her childhood and as she approached her teen years they decided to move back to the states. “Bull Run Coffee is all about community” she explained, “We’ve literally have customers who love our coffee shop so much that they have intentionally bought houses right across the street that they moved into so they can just walk here every morning to hang out”.
After I explained to her who I was and my little tour, we ended up talking for some time and she was a fountain of information about all things coffee culture in the Minneapolis area; her passion for people, community, connection, and coffee was intoxicating.
Normally, I wouldn’t think that if you show up at some random business you would find an employee who was so affable and passionate about the industry; yet Sarah was all that and more. She was proud of Bull Run Coffee and what this small coffee shop and its owners had created; a third place, a spot for people to escape their house or job and sit down with friends and acquaintances for good conversation and a great cup of coffee.
Western Culture is extremely fast paced; it’s undeniable. So much of our lives are moving in a hectic whirlwind that television and watching movies ends up being an escape from the busyness of our lives. The average amount of hours Americans and Brit’s watch television rises exponentially every year, yet who among us is really proud of all that time we spend in front of a screen living vicariously through the lives of make believe people?
It’s not that I hate television or movies, but I fear that they have become nothing more than a crutch that many of us rely on; instead of returning to a time where we connect with others over a cup of coffee, we tend to become more isolated by zoning out in front of a digital screen.
For well over a year I’ve been writing about the rise in depression and loneliness. Psychologists and counselors have been powerless at curbing the increase; they have endless theories and tactics that all fail in helping the masses feel less depressed and lonely. Yet the simple fact of the matter is that sitting by yourself in a dark room with digital screen won’t help cure your loneliness. You need to get out and connect with your fellow human beings, have a conversation with someone new, share a cup of coffee with an old friend. Who knows, maybe you will end up finding a place like Bull Run Coffee where community is their priority and the employees love to be there.
Just a few thoughts as I sipped my coffee this morning,
I will be in Boston this weekend!
Categories: Culture & Society