I’ve been thinking about friends today. I was talking with one such person online and was reminded that stuff has a beginning, a middle, and an end. With this person, I realized, we discussed the beginnings of problems and dreams and solutions, and sometimes hashed out the middle, but if an end came, the problem had been released into more capable hands. I was never involved the resolution of the problem.
At first this fact upset me a little. I wanted to see things through to the end. To be someone’s “rescuer” as it were. It’s kinda silly, now that I think about it. A couple hours later, it also crossed my mind that, you know? it doesn’t really matter that much.
You’re My Best Friend by Queen.
I don’t want to be that guy that only blogs about his work, but hey, I haven’t got that much else going on in my life. Recently I’ve been working the bar at Starbucks. For you untonsured initiates, this means I work the espresso bar. It’s turned out that I’m really, really good at it. I can manage a long line of drinks, and paste that smile to my face and hand out the drinks, with only a very very rare mixup of a beverage. (You think it sounds easy? I’d like to see you make a quad venti soy extra-hot no-foam with-whip upside-down three-Splenda extra-caramel caramel macchiato and get it right every time…) The trick is, in the words of Charles Emerson Winchester III, To do one thing at a time, do it very well, and then move on. Also to do it as quickly as possible. I think of the neverending line of drinks as a slide projector on an auto-timer, and you just grind through it, no matter where the narrator is… You either get the narration too early, speak too long and get cut off, or do it just right. I’ve finally got the knack of “getting it just right.”
I’ve told you all this but it’s not really the important part. When you are on bar, the most important thing is what in Starbucks-speak, we call the “handoff.” It’s essentially putting the lid on the cup, and with a courteous smile and a thank you, giving the beverage-they-are-about-to-enjoy-(which-is-very-hot) to the customer. This, for Starbucks, is the critical step, and rightly so. For 30-45 seconds, I am transformed into that person’s best friend. Not literally, of course. They have a best friend somewhere else, doing something much more important than handing them a drink. But for that moment, maybe a half-minute window, this person is the most important one in my life. Whether they feel that way or not about me is irrelevant. I must convince myself that we are pals, and I want nothing more in life than to hand them coffee with a greeting, a smile, and a “come again soon.” This isn’t just about sales. This is about making someone’s quality of life a better one.
Of course, after my “window” is closed, the customer leaves. He or she departs my life until the next day (for our regular customers), or perhaps never to see them again. But for a glimpse of a day, I’ve hopefully achieved my goal of brightening their day; of being their Best Friend for thirty seconds. I do this 150 times an hour, six hours a day. Maybe, just maybe, the time I’ll have spent greeting them, asking how their day is, and managing to smile at them, I’ll have made them laugh for the first time all morning, or kept them out of an accident, or maybe nothing important as that. But this sort of relationship builds on itself. I initiate it, and I’ll never see the end of the crisis of the day.
But you know what? It doesn’t really matter. I’ve done what I could, as I pass through their life, their best friend for only a minute, serving them a hot beverage.