in a Green Apron
Faces don’t lie, mouth corners and eyebrows, scrunched noses and set jaws; these are the characteristics of a face that limit its capacity to withhold the truth. We tell ourselves we can say anything, we tell ourselves we can do anything. We tell ourselves lies in hopes that they eventually become truths. Until that time, we wait for time to pass. We listen to those around us and we hope that the time passes quickly because we know. We know the people around us are in the same state of waiting, that ambition lies concealed beneath a guise of falsehoods–order, and patience, and happiness.
Walk into a filled room and you’ll understand. People may not look up to regard you, they mightn’t acknowledge your presence, but there is an unavoidable shift in the atmosphere. The room becomes just a tad more claustrophobic, your presence becomes a slight hindrance as an agent of change in a place where everyone’s waiting.
I work in a place of waiting, a place where a wall of windows face a road, the other side of which holds another place and another building with windows that reflect the sun’s light and blinds all of us over here. Sometimes, I stare out these windows and face the sun’s glare –a glare not altogether different from the one that occasionally makes its way onto customers’ faces: customers who’ve come to wait, though they may not always know that is the case.
When someone enters the shop, the atmosphere shifts to one of expectation. I expect them to approach the cash-register. I expect them to deliberate. I expect them to respond when I say hello and ask what I can get for them. Sometimes, if I do not say these things, there’s a pause, a pause in which they expect something from me. In that silence I feel a slight tug of power over them. Perhaps it’s ego, sometimes, it’s oversight. On these occasions, when they stare into my eyes, I sense vulnerability behind theirs. Sometimes I wait for then to greet them.
The process of ‘ordering’ is in and of itself an exercise in patience. I must be patient enough to listen to an order, the customer must be patient as I enter it into the computer. I must be patient as they retrieve their form of payment, and again they must be patient as I gather change from the register. Sometimes, we wait together for the computer to processes the credit-card. Ordering is a process that takes patience. It’s all waiting.
When the customers move aside, they enter an anticipated period of waiting. So too, must I. I must wait for the sticker to print, wait for the machine to grind the beans and extrude the espresso. I must wait as the milk steams. All this waiting while the him or her who ordered whichever drink waits. Sometimes, we wait together.
When it’s slow, my co-workers and me wait for the time to pass. We wait for people to come; sometimes, we wish for them to do so, so that the time spent waiting for the day’s end seems just that much shorter. Of course, we have things to do. We could clean the restroom or sweep the lobby, brew a fresh batch of coffee or make whipped cream, but then the next person to walk in the room where windows let in the sun’s glare would be forced to wait a bit longer.
When it’s busy, my co-workers and me wait for the time to pass. We wait for people to stop, we wish that they would so that we’d have time to do the things that need to be done. There may be bathrooms to clean, coffee to brew.
Most of the time, we’re waiting. It is neither good nor bad, it is just they way things are.