Just before my sixteenth birthday I got my first real job, at Weiss Markets in Woodbridge, Virginia. I loved cashiering, interacting with so many customers and being exposed to different types of people I’d never had the opportunity to meet before. In a way it was the perfect first job for me — despite being active in various school clubs, I was really quite shy growing up, and working with people forced me out of my shell. Unfortunately, I hated working with food. Weiss didn’t have a reputation as the cleanest grocery store (my first pet mouse was a rodent my older brother had rescued when he worked there), and I’d often feel greasy and dusty by the time even my shortest shifts ended. And dirt was even the smallest of the hazards; one time I sliced my hand open on sharp shrimp tails that had been poorly shrink wrapped and ended up bleeding on my conveyor belt and register. When I started looking for another summer job after my first year of college I vowed that I would never work with food again.
Naturally, I was thrilled when I was hired at the Books-A-Million in the local mall. I enjoyed working with books and book-lovers, and had a knack for knowing where to find even the books that weren’t entered in the stores too-often inaccurate inventory. I worked in the bookstore for a couple of years during my college breaks, befriending a great group of people and saving for my college expenses. But somewhere along the way I forgot my vow, and wound up filling in as a barista at the store’s coffee shop, Joe Muggs Cafe. I worked there for a couple of breaks, and at one point even filled in as manager during one of my summers at home. The experience gave me the opportunity to develop new organizational and communication skills, but more importantly, I learned how to make some kick-ass drinks — including the cafe au lait.
Most of my barista skills have been retired, so Chris and I participated in today’s “unofficial” with a steaming Starbuck’s mitzo (“mixer”), which is another name for today’s celebrated drink. Unlike my charming husband, I’m not a big coffee drinker. When I do drink it I require a lot of cream and sugar. I hadn’t had a cafe au lait since my days at Joe Muggs so I wasn’t really sure what to expect when the hot drink was delivered to me. I decided to try it without any sugar and was pleasantly surprised to find that the steaming milk helped to water down the coffee’s bitterness. I’d already eaten a large dinner, but I actually liked the drink so much that I finished my entire grande sized serving. Chris didn’t enjoy his as much as his usual coffee selection but he still finished it and said he liked it — it just wasn’t the same as what he’s used to.