I am a barista. I make coffee for a living. Most of my living, anyway. When I'm not writing.
You will all know from previous blog posts that I absolutely adore my profession, for a myriad of reasons; I find coffee as fascinating as it is delicious, I feel that a coffee date is the most perfect meeting with anyone and everyone, I am excited to have this skill under my belt and string in my bow, and...I am a people watcher.
Oh yes, a people watcher. A character creator - that's how I write, remember?
I love nothing more than sitting in a cafe or on a train (these seem to be my two default locations nowadays), peering over my book now and again to observe some folks sitting across the way from me or passing by the window.
I'd never eavesdrop, oh no. I just enjoy watching. I create stories for people, sometimes – you know, like in Date Night when Steve & Tina ask each other 'what's the story?', nodding to a couple at the table next to them.
I have some friends in my life who are excellent at this game. Truly marvellous at creating scenarios and profiles – my Grandad, for one, once gave me a detailed description of the relationship between the male and female at the table next to us in ASK, saying 'she'll never do any better than him, he's a sweetheart and yet stupidly thinks he's punching'. One of my oldest besties is the same, but he takes it upon himself to actually read people, from cover to cover almost, before giving an evaluation – and he's always spot on.
I do this with customers, too. I create Coffee Customer Profiles, if you will.
I often already have an idea of what they're like when they walk in the door, because I can often predict what they'll order. Or I'll have no clue, and when they order their drink I'll spend the time it takes to froth the milk or grab the teabag inventing a back story for them, or putting them in a shoebox with their peers (e.g. the cappuccino orderers, with their sensible coats and excitement when I offer them the chocolate dust on top of the milk/the latte girls, all of whom have lanyards round their necks and stir in endless packets of sugar).
I have written about customers in the past, in fact. Based on things I knew for certain, and things I'd heard. Sometimes they get nicknames, and blog posts. E.g. The Thieving Sleeper, Soya Girl, and Stressed-Out Mama.
This is ever so slightly different, because I am mostly gathering info and then making up the rest myself. Some regulars I will know everything about, though (e.g. Helen* has two sons and works from home, walks her dog Rex* at 7am each day and gets her mocha when she's en route home) and that's nice, too, that they share their lives with the people who make their coffee each day. But I do enjoy absolute strangers whose lives are a mystery to me; all I know about them is that they like it extra hot, or with an extra shot...
What interests me is other people's perspectives – my colleagues, for instance, might not see the 'just a black americano' fellas the same way I do (marriage material). My mum has said that she'd see 'double espresso drinkers' as 'classy people, with a refined taste', whereas I see them as busy individuals with the world on their shoulders and no time to indulge. Isn't that funny?
Am I the only one who does this? I can't be.
* Obvs, names are changed to protect the innocent coffee lovers. Hell, Helen isn't even real. She's just an example. Much like Ian and Sophia. All made up. Like they're my imaginary friends...no I joke, my imaginary friend was always Toby/Tobias, stolen from Prue in Jaqueline Wilson's Love Lessons. I digress. Shh.