It was a Tuesday, or as I like to call it, ‘Bluesday,’ the most depressing day of the week. The previous weekend was ancient history by then. If you were still talking about it on a Tuesday you came across as desperate, hanging on to the past like an old jazzman who wouldn’t let you forget that in his day he jammed with Miles Davis, both of them high as kites on the unkempt rhythms provided by the Spirit Of Jazz.
As for talking about the coming weekend, it was just too soon. You’d come across as a dreamer, living in the future. It’d be like talking about the house you want to build with a team of men in a hinterland, half an hour’s drive or so from the nearest city. It would be in the wilderness, you’d assure whoever was listening, but close enough to civilization in case of an emergency.
So there I was, battling the blues that only a Tuesday can bring, half-heartedly chatting about the present to my colleagues and customers as I went through the motions- grinding, dosing, tamping, extracting, steaming, pouring and serving- when Maxwell, the big boss, entered the café. I was too depressed to even care. On any other day I would have lifted my game by straightening my posture and flashing my teeth at the nearest customer to reassure my employer that he was paying me for good reason, but I just couldn’t muster the motivation.
“Mr Barista, step into my office,” he said without making eye-contact as he passed me. I sighed in defeat, accepting my fate. The gig was up. He was going to fire me. He had no place in his cafe for people who didn’t smile at strangers like madmen. Oh well, I thought as I followed him, this could be a blessing in disguise. I could meet my future wife at the next café I work at.
“Sit down,” he said, gesturing towards the leather armchair opposite his desk. “Do you drink scotch?”
Do I what? Surely it was a trick question. I thought for a second that maybe he was going to accuse me of drinking on the job and that he had his own breathalyzer, that this was some sort of raid.
“I have been known to,” I eventually replied.
“Good,” he said, opening one of the drawers to his desk, pulling out a bottle of Glenfiddich and two tumblers. “Good,” he repeated as he poured generous nips into the glasses. I felt like I was in a weird dream after an evening of cheese platters and hallucinogens. He pushed the tumbler towards me and raised his own before downing it in one. I followed suit. Perhaps this is how he fires everyone, I thought. He gets them drunk so he doesn’t feel so bad about it. He refilled the tumblers even higher than the first.
“Now, Mr Barista. I don’t know what Althea has been saying to you but I want you to hear it from me. She’s been on thin ice for months now. She lacks the passion required to manage my business. You, though, you’re something else. You remind me of myself at your age. Tell me, where do you see yourself in five years?”
I sipped my scotch in disbelief, expecting to wake up any second to a pool of sweat in my bed, which I would briefly mistake for urine until I sniffed it thoroughly. “You know, I wouldn’t mind having my own café,” I answered honestly.
“Good answer.” He downed his second with determination. “This could be a good experience for you, then, learning what really makes a café tick. It’s not all about latte art and perfect extractions. Sure, that kind of thing plays a leading role, but see, you can’t make a film without a crew, without cameras, without lighting, and most importantly, without finance. You understand?”
“Well, the job is yours if you want it.”
I finished my scotch. “I do.”
“Then it’s settled. I’ll tell Althea later today, give her the two week’s notice. I wish I didn’t have to give her that much time but the law says I do. It’s always tricky, those two weeks, a matter of damage control. We don’t want her badmouthing you to customers. We have to handle it delicately.”
“It will be weird, yes,” I agreed. “I’ll still be on her watch. Don’t worry, though, Maxwell, I know how to handle her. It’ll all come good in the end, you’ll see.”
He ushered me out of his office, patting me on the back. I had a good daytime drunk going and I didn’t want it to end. That’s when the awkward reality of the next two weeks would really set in, especially once Maxwell broke the news to Althea, making every previous Tuesday afternoon seem like a fantastical wonderland full of beautiful angels lining up to dance with me.