Monday, 23 November 2009


There once was a man called George, who at one point lived in the United States and worked as a barista in a well-known juice bar. I will never forget him.

He doesn't know me and wouldn't recognise me. I saw him maybe three or four times. I think perhaps our interaction time doesn't even total five minutes. But he had this way of handing me my 16oz cup of sugar and fruit concoction and telling me to "have a great day" infused with such sincerity that it warmed my heart right through. What a chap.

From what I know of George, I could deduce that he is a lovely fellow. I could be entirely wrong of course, but in our interactions I simply played the role of polite customer and he simply played the role of excellent barista. I don't have much to judge him on.

It is human nature to judge. I don't mind that. I judge people all the time.

At work, for instance. I have a great job; I work with lovely people, and I serve lovely people. It's almost how disappointing how lovely it all is, because it means I have no crazy customer stories to regale to you.

I've been there long enough now to build up rapport with some of our regulars: The little old ladies who buy their cheese and meats from us; the University lecturers with whom I like to banter about current affairs; the students who come in wearing pyjamas and holding paper coffee cups and talking incessantly about how they have been awake all night writing a presentation and took far too many pro plus and are now so jittery that they can't stop talking and they would really like a sandwich and they are so sorry that they keep talking crap at you but are really very charming and entertaining to listen to.

I'm sure most of my customers look at me, and the other girls I work with, simply as their deli girls. I don't mind that. I enjoy helping people, in any role. We exchange our pleasantries and our mutual disdain about the weather, I hand them their goods and they leave happy. I might not be as sincere or heart-felt as George, but it's a good atmosphere.

It's an affluent town and it's a high-end food emporium. Sometimes, I serve girls, students, whose purses cost more than my entire wardrobe. Of course, I judge them on that; I also judge them as lovely, because they usually are. But I also judge customers when they pay for their lunch with their parent's credit card by throwing the credit card at me or one of my colleagues, or when a daily regular completely fails to register my attempt at familiar camaraderie. I assume they judge me as 'just the deli girl' and I also judge them based on the small, daily snippets I see of their personality. I can only judge them on that and no more, especially when they refuse to engage in conversation on their daily lunch run.

One girl comes in almost every day to get her lunch from us, let's call her Shouty Girl. She shouts her order at us and then rarely speaks, smiles, or acknowledges us, usually talking on her flashy mobile or turning her back from us to talk to her friends. She comes in every day, and every day she is the same. I don't mind too much, but it really bugs some of the girls I work with because they are all at the same university.

One day a colleague, a student, told me she was sitting in the library studying, when she became distracted by an incessantly loud voice emanating from the girl sitting next to her. It turned out to be Shouty Girl chatting on her flashy mobile. My colleague turned to her, eyes set to death ray, and snapped loudly "will you please just SHUT UP?"

Shouty Girl was taken by surprise, snapped her phone shut and replied with disdain, "What's your problem? You're nice to me when you serve me in the deli."

"That's because I'm PAID to be nice to you in the deli," came my colleague's winning retort.

Whoever said manners cost nothing was wrong when it comes to dealing with the likes of Shouty Girl.

Mind you, she hasn't changed.

So we all judge each other, and that's ok. But if we all remembered that we are being judged on the short interactions we have with each other, whether we are buying a paper or a sandwich, going for dinner or on holiday, we'd probably all be a bit more like George.

Or at least the bit of George I saw.

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