So for the past couple days I’ve been quite busy with assignments in the like (not an excuse, just a fact) but I’ve become addicted to blogging and need to post something so here’s an excerpt from Happiness In Slavery.
The main character has just woken up after a night of partying with his roommates. He has to get ready to go to work at his job at Lattes and Literature. This excerpt covers him getting to work and the first half of his shift. Let me know what you think. 🙂
After the shower I began making myself some breakfast, which really involved looking through the fridge, concluding that there’s was nothing edible and deciding on going to McDonalds on the way to work.
It usually took me about 20 to 25 minutes to walk to work. During summer it wasn’t so bad. It was really the only exercise I got. But during the winter I wanted to die.
Winnipeg winters were brutal. It was mildly livable during the summer, but I fucking hated winter. The thought of the cold made me shiver involuntarily, and inevitably corralled my thoughts to Taiwan.
I’d left a gorgeous, tropical paradise to come back to a frozen, agonizingly boring, shift-work existence.
My teeth gritted down angrily.
I tried to think of anything other than that evil bitch and for some reason the color green popped into the foreground of my thought. It could’ve been since my refrigerator was a 70s green, or because it was my favorite color, but the color ultimately lead me to thinking about Emerald.
Why had she left so abruptly? Had I done something last night that warranted a “sneak off in the night” exit?
I decided not to think about it anymore.
In the ashtray by the television was a partially smoked blunt. There was probably another two or three good tokes left in it and I thought a long time about it before I remembered that I hated being high at work. Talking to people was far too stressful, plus I was still feeling an afterglow as it was.
I poured myself a glass of water and downed it before grabbing my iPod and walking out the door.
The morning sun released some dull, muted warmth through the thick clouds overhead. August was a weird month. It was either really hot all month, or it was wet, cold and miserable. This year was definitely the latter.
The very end of May to the beginning of July had been reasonably warm, but by mid-July Mother Nature was pissed: wind, hail, rain, and sub-seasonal temperatures; not at all a good summer.
It was spitting a little bit when I got to the corner of Stafford and Grant. I was still about fifteen minutes from work.
I listened to the melancholy, industrial melodies streaming out of the headphones-attacking my eardrums-and bobbed my head along with the music.
As I approached the building I could see the cars backed up from Drive-Thru spilling out onto the parking lot of the restaurant on the other side of the lot. There must’ve been nine or ten cars, at least.
I pulled open the doors and walked inside. It was pure pandemonium. The café was blocked by a rapidly increasing line; a cluster comprised of snobby people in business suits, or dapper skirts and prissy blouses. I looked at my watch and I had fifteen minutes before my shift started.
I liked to get to work early, so I could order a drink, and relax before running headlong into the throng of easily annoyed, hopelessly egotistical assholes.
I looked over to the front counter and unfortunately, made eye contact with the shift supervisor. He stood up straight and began walking towards me in a hurried jog, just on the slow side of a run.
“Hey, can you start now?” He asked me.
I tried to hide the fact that I was gritting my teeth again.
I accompanied him to the backroom and put on my apron, hat, and clocked in for work; fifteen minutes early. I checked where they deployed me for the day, and sure enough, I was working Drive-Thru again.
I put a headset on and started to make drinks. This wasn’t too bad. I was actually enjoying it. I didn’t have to talk to anyone, all I did was make the drinks that were put up on the expediter screen, until-
“Hey, I’m gonna get Hugh to close his drive-thru till and send him on his break. You’re taking orders,”
The shift supervisor unlocked Hugh’s drop box and Hugh signed out of his till. This meant that I had to take orders until the next person came on to sign into Hugh’s till. I’d looked briefly at the Daily Coverage Report while I was clocking in, and saw that the next person wasn’t in until 1:15pm. So I had to take orders for another two hours at least, and with my luck, the shift would give bar duties to whoever’s coming in at 1:15 and I’d have to continue taking orders. I fucking hated talking to customers.
Shit. That awful, horrible sound meant that someone had just pulled up to the Drive-Thru window and I had to take their order.
I turned on the mic.
“Hi there, welcome to-“
“Yah, yah, I’ll have a Grande, non-fat, extra hot, no foam, latte,”
I repeated his order back to him.
“No foam!!” He yelled into the mic. I had to pull the headset away from my ears it was so loud.
The first order of the day and he’s an asshole. I looked up into the monitor and immediately recognized the man. We had a camera outside, mounted at the back of the building so we could see the customer we’re talking with. He often came into the Drive-Thru, and every time, would come into café afterward to complain about what a shitty drink he’d gotten.
There was always foam on it.
He would yell about how monkeys could do our jobs and a retard can steam milk so why can’t we get it right.
I always explained to him that if he ordered extra hot that there would still be some bubbles in the milk that would settle once the drink cooled, so either he’d have to wait longer for his drink, or he would have to deal with some marginal amount of foam. And if the foam was perfect, and by perfect I mean there wasn’t any, he would complain that his drink took too long.
“How long does it take to make a latte? Do you guys go to Guatemala to pick the beans yourself?”
I hated that fucking guy and wanted to kick his fucking teeth out.
I opened the window.
“Hi there, how are you doing to-“
“Yah, yah,” He held his hand out and it was a good thing I had a fairly good hold of his debit card because he let go randomly and I had to fumble slightly to keep it in my hand.
I started to repeat his drink back to him.
“Yah, yah, whatever,” He was talking on his cell phone. God, I hated when customers talked on their phones in Drive-Thru.
Really? You couldn’t hang up for three minutes while you get coffee? You HAVE to talk to this person? Fuck!
“Would you like a copy of your receipt?” I looked at him and realized he didn’t hear me so I just passed him out his drink.
He put his hand over the phone and said, “Could I have the receipt,”
I’d already exited his order on my computer screen and went back to the main screen. If he wouldn’t have been talking on his fucking cell phone he’d have heard me. And maybe he did hear me and he was just a fucking asshole.
I sighed and reentered my barista screen and pressed a couple buttons to print off a copy of the receipt. It wasn’t really that big of a deal, I was just generally pissed off at this guy and wanted him out of here.
There was a honking from outside the window. I opened the window.
“Hey!” He shouted. He’d opened the drink and was showing me the contents. “Does this look like no foam to you?”
“Sir,” I said. “If you ask for extra hot-“I was going to explain for the be-zillionth time but he interrupted me.
“Jesus,” He rolled his eyes. “I’d like two recovery coupons,”
Two? He always did that. He’d buy one drink, get pissed off and then ask for two coupons for free drinks. And of course we operate under a “just say yes” policy so I had to fucking do it. I really wanted to beat his face in. But he left after that, and to my surprise didn’t come into café to yell at us again for something as equally asinine.
The other orders after that were pretty basic, mostly just brewed coffees and the occasional cappuccino, and we pumped those out really quickly.
The next while went by relatively uneventfully, but as one woman gave me money for her order I looked down at the coins in my hand and they all seemed so alien. For a long while, I couldn’t pull any amount of meaning from them. I felt so frustrated, until ever so slowly my brain kicked back in and I was able to gauge denominations and figure out the change I owed the woman at the window.
A prime example of why I hated being high at work.
The 1:15 barista came on and my supervisor sent me on my break. I definitely needed it. I got my espresso drink and sat down in the café and opened my book.
I had just begun reading “The Picture of Dorian Gray” and was quite enjoying it. Althought I couldn’t enjoy it while I was being assaulted by the horrible choir of voices in the café. I couldn’t drown them out. I was hearing snippets of all the conversations and my head was throbbing painfully.
“Twenty six hours of labor and then they decide she needs a c-section,”
“I’ve seen a lot, but you’ve got to admit that kinda freaks me out,”
“So they can’t get the landing gear down and we’re up there circling for like 3 hours,”
The voices were so loud and no matter what I did I couldn’t drown them out.
I clenched my eyes closed tightly and when I opened them they came to focus on the cover of a book a patron was reading across the café.
I stared intently at the cover. It was red with a nightmarish landscape on the cover. The title of the book was a blur; I couldn’t read it from across the room. But suddenly the colors began to move. They swirled and blended together and I found myself mesmerized by the kaleidoscope of colors.
That was my break timer. My fifteen minute break was finished. I gathered my stuff together and walked into the back room to get my apron on again and sent myself once again into the fray.