Baristas and stress on the caffeine front

Starbucks is in the news today.  Tax apparently is the problem.

I look at coffee outlets from a different angle – normally the far side of a counter and often in a motorway services.  Never a romantic venue and rarely relaxing but the point is the coffee – especially in winter.

Winter here means a chill that sticks.  It is sock damp and everywhere.   The world seems to hide in its own armpit – head down, surviving.

Motorway travel doesn’t help the mood.   There are always miles to go and the sitting still just brings drowsiness.  Lights blur into streaks of yellow zig-zagged by wipers – swish, return, smudge, swish …

I count down the miles.  I strain for the signs announcing the next services.  I yearn for the hot steam of fresh coffee.

I stop at some point most long journeys.  I build up the courage to push open the car door and then rush through the cold to the services entrance.

I find the coffee sign with relief and then, so often, the frustration begins. If it is a peak time, or the motorways have been forced to a halt by some incident, there will be another simmering queue to join.

It’s not an easy queue.  Some customers have places to go, times to get there.  They are dazed – wanting caffeine.  Others are in no hurry with all the minutes in Big Ben to choose the densest of drinks and accessories.

I can usually see from the back of the queue heads, sometimes just a head, bobbing to and fro between the gleam of the coffee machine and the cake-filled glass counter.

I imagine the frustrating, delicious undecidedness of the ‘ -aciato’ of each order.   I groan as families queue for hot chocolates  with flossings of marshmallows and syrup.  I long for businessmen stretching for espressos.

I try to remain calm – generous.  Queues always inch forwards.  Finally I reach the counter where for the first time I usually find the reason for any delay.  Normally it will be a card machine not working or three members of staff off sick or sometimes both.  Yet, always there has been a weary whirlwind mixing coffee.

It is the weary whirlwinds I would like to cheer.  Somehow they stay at their posts for hours while they repeat drink, after drink, after drink.

As I rush back through the cold with my trophy cup of coffee I feel wide awake.  I’m never sure whether it’s the fresh air, the anticipated caffeine, or the guilt of having added to some frantic barista’s over-stretched day.  All I do know is that the drowsiness has gone.

So, while parliamentary committees take Starbucks and others in for questioning over tax I would like to say thanks.  Thanks to all those baristas serving the anonymous  and decaffeinated on the motorway margins.

Much appreciated!  I hope they’re looking after you.

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