Confessions of a Salty Barista: 14 Ways to be the Best Starbucks Employee Ever

As someone who worked at Starbucks for ten months and someone who was awarded partner of the quarter I feel like I have a pretty good sense of what Starbucks is looking for in an employee. So. With no further ado, here is a guide to help you become the best partner at Starbucks as possible. I wouldn’t be surprised if Starbucks started to use this guide to introduce partners to their store. It’s just that good.

14 Ways to be the Best Starbucks Employee Ever

1. Be a super fast learner. Like, impossibly fast. You have three days to train and most of that time is spent in front of a computer, instead of actually getting to know your store and what the hell you’re supposed to do. So, if you can just learn through osmosis, that’s ideal. Otherwise, you’ll probably never learn how to make a latte and be on trash duty for the first six months.

2. Be super excited about every single thing. Have a dog-level excitement about everything. A new drink that tastes awful? Love it! Corporate says they’re cutting back on staffing so there will be just one person running the store during rush? Love it! Going straw-less by 2020? OH MY FUCKING GOD! I can’t wait!

3. Be super good at small talk. It’s ideal if small talk is the only way you can communicate with others. Because, I mean, the weather, right? Can you believe it?

4. Be super charismatic. Like, unnervingly charismatic. Think serial killer charismatic. You have to have the kind of charisma that will get a complete stranger to help you with boxes to your car so you can then kill them and mutilate their bodies.

5. Don’t panic. Learn to lean into the chaos. Customer yelling at you about whipped cream? That’s cool. Just put some whip on it. Are there 10 angry people glaring at you? That’s cool. Just keep your head down. Oven is on fire? That’s cool. Maybe the fire will burn down the store. Just remember to keep calm, and barista on.

6. Bow down to your fearless leader, Corporate. They alone, know all. You know nothing. Sure. You’re the one on the ground floor, doing all the work, knowing what needs to be done to make the store run more efficiently. But whenever you get a good idea or suggestion, just write it down on a piece of receipt paper, throw it out the drive-thru window, and watch it blow away. It’s basically the same as giving it to Corporate anyway.

7. Feel absolutely nothing. That might require you to take drugs. Uppers. Downers. Whatever you need to be dead inside is what you should do. Because when you get yelled at by privileged and entitled people all day every day, you need to feel nothing in order to do your job well.

8. Know that the customer is always right even when you are clearly more experienced at your job than someone who just has a Keurig at home and drinks Folgers. So when they tell you they don’t want any espresso in their latte, I guess you better just give them steamed milk.

9. Don’t be racist. Or, like, at least, don’t be outwardly racist. If you have Nazi paraphernalia in your home, privately, and you don’t talk about it, that’s fine. But, please. Let people hang out without buying a coffee first. Please. Dear god. We cannot have another incident go viral.

10. Never need water. You’re not allowed to have it (even hidden from sight) in the café. You can only have it in the back where you’ll have access to it for fifty minutes for an eight and a half hour shift. So, it’s best if you just don’t need it in the first place.

11. Don’t sweat, either. Sure. It’s eighty degrees in the café because the AC doesn’t work super well, but please don’t sweat. It upsets the customers to see you as a human with bodily functions.

12. Don’t need money. At least not enough money to survive in the real world. Maybe you’ve got a sweet hook-up in Narnia and you live there rent free.

13. Don’t have back pain, knee pain, or any kind of pain ever. Don’t have arthritis. Also, never get sick or injured. Because if you do have physical pain, you’ll just have to deal with it with a smile because we’re understaffed and we need you to work.

14. Be a robot. This should probably just be your mantra. Because robots never need water, they never sweat, they don’t get injured, or need money, and most importantly, they feel nothing at all. Plus, it’s only a matter of time before Starbucks switches to robots anyway. So maybe this will give you a head start.

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Goodbye, Starbucks

One day during a shift, my coworker and I were fantasizing yet again about leaving Starbucks. You know, just another day at the office where we hate our jobs and our lives and survive by thinking about getting out of this awful place.

I had started dreading coming to work. Each day, I came in knowing it would be awful in some way. Some days were only slightly awful. Maybe only one customer would yell at me because I didn’t put caramel drizzle on their frappuccino like a monster.

But it also could be unimaginably awful. Maybe the water line would burst again, gushing water from a pipe in the back and preventing us from using any of the dribbling water from the tap. And we wouldn’t be able to serve anything but iced coffee and iced tea and then every customer would be confused that I couldn’t make them a latte because they don’t understand what’s in their drink and then that confusion would lead to rage which leads them to ask, “How can you sleep at night knowing you ruined my entire day because you couldn’t make a skinny vanilla latte?!”

My feelings of dread started around the time one of our shift supervisors walked out at the beginning of her shift and one other coworker and I were left to run the store only to have an eighteen-item order and then every other customer wished death upon us.

After that day, chaos was just the default.

One of the three espresso machines had been broken for months, which led to longer wait times, which also led to customers wishing death upon us. We were constantly understaffed. Everyone was leaving (or desperately wanted to). New hires usually lasted a week or two, but no more. We were down to two shift supervisors. We used to have four. We were also constantly out of everything. Lids. Ice. Cups. Strawberry acai. God damn. You do not want to be out of strawberry acai. Those white people will lose their shit.

And then, recently, Starbucks had started to implement a “playbook” which changed our usual positions and roles in the café to what they thought would work the most effectively but really was just a way to keep us understaffed on purpose.

One coworker said that the playbook was seemingly written by a cat randomly stepping on the computer keyboard. But honestly, I think that’s not giving enough credit to cats. I believe a cat randomly typing on a keyboard could have made a playbook that makes more sense than whatever we were given. Just trust me on this one. You don’t want the person on the drive-thru espresso bar to also have to make coffee every eight minutes during the morning rush. Even a cat would know that.

Look. All of these elements make for great tension in a sitcom, but in real life, oddly enough, it’s not so much fun. I realized as much as I love watching sitcoms, I really didn’t want to live in one.

So why was I still there? My coworker asked me why I didn’t quit. What was stopping me?

Well, I didn’t have another job. When you quit one job, you’re supposed to have another lined up. And while I had applied to a bunch of teaching jobs at universities in May, I hadn’t heard back from any. I had given up on teaching and I didn’t really know where to go from there.

I was still in the process of endlessly scrolling through Indeed.com, looking for potential jobs and then getting super overwhelmed and throwing my computer across the room in a panic.

But other than that, I didn’t know why I was still there.

My coworker threw out this insane idea: What if I quit without another job lined up? I could have a month or two just to focus on writing and figuring out my next steps. I could have actual time to search jobs and then apply to them and not be miserable.

The more I thought about it, the more it made sense. After all, I lived at home. I didn’t have many expenses. I was just saving the money I’d earned. Starbucks had been draining to the point where I didn’t have energy to work on the many other things on my to-do list. The things that really mattered.

But leaving without another job lined up would mean I’d have to not care about having no answer when everyone asked, “What are you doing now?”

But then I thought about that feeling of dread. And I realized: Starbucks just wasn’t worth it anymore.

Since I’ve been out of school, most of what I’m learning is what isn’t worth my time, energy, and unhappiness, and then quitting those things. I had quit my internship. Now, it was time to quit Starbucks.

The day I received my partner of the quarter pin (basically employee of the month but with an added $75 bonus), I turned in my two-week notice.

I was looking forward to my month ahead and I was really looking forward to never having to make a latte for another entitled person again.

But before my month started, I got an email from a professor at Fontbonne University asking for a meeting to talk about the possibility of me teaching part-time there.

I guess I wasn’t going to have to tell people I didn’t know what I was doing anymore. But more on that later.

– – –

Next week, I’ll tell you all about how you can be the best Starbucks employee ever in my last installment of Confessions of a Salty Barista.

Panic Attacks and the City

This past weekend, I went to Chicago to visit a couple of friends from high school. Before I even left, my first thought was: I’m probably going to have a panic attack when I get to the city.

You know, totally normal thoughts whenever you get ready for a fun trip to reconnect with friends.

The last time I was in Chicago, I was just passing through with friends to a wedding. Even just driving into the city, seeing those skyscrapers, the heavy traffic, it made me have a near-panic attack. My chest got tight, my heart raced, my palms started to sweat. And sure. Everyone was a bit tense because the traffic was insane. Everyone except our one friend who looked out the window and said, “I like Chicago. I’m glad we drove through the city.”

I lived in Chicago for eight months while I went to school at Loyola. For those eight months, my fondest memory is probably the one time a dead body washed up onto the campus shore. Although, it would have been better if I could have discovered the body or something. But, whatever.

Needless to say, those eight months were kind of rough for me. How do I convey what those eight months were like without getting into a whole sob story that’s going to make you pity me?

Got it.

Imagine your classic college movie featuring the loser who is ill-equipped to deal with this new phase in their life.

FADE IN:

We open on a naïve and hopeful girl, stepping out of her parents car and into the big city. She’s excited, she’s hopeful. This is going to be the next chapter of her life! Little does she know, she fell in love with the idea of living in a city without actually considering her anxiety with crowds and public transportation. And she didn’t even really consider that she wants to pursue creative writing but Loyola doesn’t have a creative writing program. We as the audience know this is going to be trouble.

There’d be a series of scenes showing this girl hanging out with her roommate and her roommate’s friends, but our protagonist isn’t exactly fitting in. Her roommate stops inviting her out. So, she joins every group imaginable to make friends. She even asks to sit with randos in the dining hall in an effort to meet new people. She tries so hard. And we kind of pity her for it. We’d see her Skype with her shitty long-distance boyfriend but she’s too naïve at this point to know he’s a piece of shit. We’d see her hit a low point while she sits alone in her dimly lit dorm room while girls laugh and have the best time of their lives just outside the door.

But she’s still determined. She goes out, meets other people. These people are way better than her roommate. They could actually be her college friend group! They eat at dining halls. They hang out. And then, as the first month progresses, she hears less and less from these friends until she hears nothing at all. Her other means of meeting other people aren’t really working out. And, her shitty, jealous boyfriend doesn’t want her talking to, much less being friends with, anyone with a penis. So the couple of friends she’s met in class (some of whom possess penises) won’t amount to anything.

At about this time, she’s realizing there is this weird college culture at Loyola where friend groups are established within the first month. Whatever clique you belong to, the applications are closed after September. And our protagonist has missed her opportunity to apply to other cliques. So, friendless, she does what any well-adjusted adult would do: she lies to her parents about having friends.

She spends her days in her dorm room, working on homework or watching Netflix and thinks about the next time she can leave Chicago to go home. She listens to a lot of John Mayer. This is how you know she’s at her lowest point.

Eventually, she comes clean to her parents. And, after many existential crises, she realizes: She can leave. She doesn’t have to keep attending this school. But she worries that this makes her a failure. We roll our eyes at her for thinking this. Despite her worries about failure, she applies to another school. A smaller, liberal arts school with an actual creative writing program. She gets in. And once she accomplishes this, she sees she has to dump her shitty boyfriend who is holding her back. So she does. She transfers to that other school and she makes friends.

The closing image is her, walking along the campus quad with her new friends, laughing, the possibilities endless like the horizon.

Ok. I mean, those things all did happen in their own time (and we don’t have to talk about who dumped who) but unfortunately, life isn’t structured like a movie. It took some time for all of those things to happen, but they did.

And yet.

When I thought about Chicago, I thought about isolation. I thought about being surrounded by thousands and thousands of people and feeling completely alone. So when I came back, I figured: panic attack.

When my friend and I approached the L, I worried that this would be the moment the panic would set in. The L was the form of transportation I took to the train station so I could go home, so I could escape. But the panic didn’t come. After traveling so much, the L just looked like any other public transportation I had seen.

But surely, when the L approached the Loyola stop, that would be it. This was the source of all my anxiety, my fear of failure, my isolation in Chicago. But there was no panic. It actually took me a second to recognize the nineteen story building as my old dorm because I had remembered it being closer to the L. I remembered hearing the “doors closing” announcement from seventeen floors up. But things weren’t exactly as I remembered.

As we pulled away from the stop, I realized Chicago was just another city now. And it only took eight years to realize that.

Writing in Dystopia

Oh. Hey there. Long time no see. It’s been twenty-four days since my last blog post. This Friday would make it a whole month.

I’m sure you’ve been like, where’s Katharine and her amazing Millennial content? I need another listicle about everyday life featuring gifs that do most of the work.

I don’t have a great excuse. I don’t even have a good one. The first week that I decided to skip a blog post was the week we all learned that children were being separated from their families at the border. The second week I skipped another blog post was when we learned about the Supreme Court ruling on the Muslim ban. And then there was the mass shooting in Annapolis. And then there’s a spot opening up in the Supreme Court. And, oh yeah, the government has to run DNA tests on kids and their families because that’s the only way they can reunite them.

It’s just in that moment of time, it didn’t feel ideal to post something about “The Ten Worst Things About Finding a Job!’ or “Gosh, Dating is So Hard!” or “Basic White Girl Struggles in the Real World. When Will She Get a Grip? Not Any Time Soon.”

So for a couple weeks it’s gone something like this: Hear/read something awful in the news. Feel bad about that awful thing. Feel bad about feeling bad about something that doesn’t directly affect me. Feel bad about not doing anything about it. Rinse and repeat.

I tried to write about that feeling. I wrote and rewrote it five times. No matter what I did, I couldn’t get it right.

When I couldn’t get it right, a thought planted in my head. Maybe I shouldn’t be doing this at all. Maybe I have nothing to contribute in this new world, this new dystopia.

It’s a thought I’ve had before. When Trump was elected, I wanted to throw out my thesis. Like, do we really need a story about some Millennial who has to move back home with her dysfunctional family and figure out her life? Everything is fucked.

It’s a conversation that’s come up at writing conferences. How do you keep writing now that everything is fucked? But no matter how hopeless it felt to still write, I did it.

This time, I kept thinking: Why am I doing this? Why am I still writing this blog?

It takes so much work to write such mediocre content.

Why am I doing this?

Am I even writing about things that matter?

Why am I doing this?

I should be applying to five million more jobs instead of writing and editing blog content.

Why am I doing this?

Dana Schwartz got noticed for her super funny Twitter page, Guy In Your MFA, within, like, a day, which eventually led to her writing career, and I can’t even come up with funny things like that so this blog will never turn into anything so I might as well just give up now.

 

Ok. Now that we’ve reached the “all is lost” portion of this post, I guess it’s time for the semi-positive but still realistic ending, huh? I mean, this blog post is proof that I haven’t set this whole blog on fire. So. Positive ending.

Yes. The world is a dumpster fire. Some days, it’s hard to convince myself to keep writing in a world turned dystopia.

But the world keeps turning. In a world where children were being held in internment camps, The Bachelorette still exists. The Kardashians are still filming every moment of their lives for us to see. American Idol is on their 278th season even though we all checked out after the Ruben Studdard/Clay Aiken debacle.

If shitty content like that still exists, if executives think that’s what we need today, well, I guess I can write another shitty blog post that might not matter.

4 Reasons Why I Don’t Like My Birthday

I have never liked my birthday. I realize this is not normal. When you tell people you don’t like your birthday, they are sure to let you know how not normal you are.

At the very least, when you tell people you don’t like your birthday, people look at you as if you’ve said you don’t like babies. At the worst, they look at you as if you’ve just admitted you love cannibalism.

So. Since my birthday was last weekend, I’m here to tell you a few reasons why I don’t like my birthday, an arbitrary day we decided as a society was important to celebrate.

4 Reasons Why I Don’t Like My Birthday:

  1. Who likes getting old?

I mean, sure. I do talk a big game about how when I’m old, really old, I’m going to be next-level Betty White. But honestly, if it were up to me, I’d never age past 30. I’m still trying to find that spring water in Tuck Everlasting so I can make it happen. I’m also not opposed to becoming a zombie. Being 27 now, I already feel like one. Might as well make it official.

2. Strangers singing to me in public is one of my worst nightmares. It’s definitely up there with dying alone.

Every year I just ask for one thing: please don’t sing to me. Unless you’re Darren Criss serenading me, I want none of it. It probably has something to do with the fact that I don’t like being the center of attention. Having everyone put the spotlight on me makes my skin crawl. I know this seems odd coming from someone who is a blogger, one of the most self-absorbed groups of people ever because they think they have content that other people want to read. But trust me. Unless it’s karaoke and I’m two drinks in, I don’t want to be in the spotlight.

3. I spend each birthday tallying up everything I have accomplished and all the many things I have not.

Anyone else spend time reflecting on all the ways they’ve failed themselves on their birthday? No? Just me? Weird. I mean, I’ve already told you about my anxiety that comes with marking one-year anniversaries. It’s the same thing, different day. Because birthdays aren’t just for having fun, guys. It’s a great opportunity to explore all the ways that you’ve fallen short within the past year.

4. My birthday makes me miss all my long distance friends.

Having long distance friends kind of makes it hard to throw a birthday party. So when my birthday comes around and I think about who I can spend it with, I inevitably think about all my friends living across the country who can’t be there with me. I think about the time we’ve spent together, the birthdays we’ve had, the coffees and glasses of wine we’ve shared. I think about all the ways my friendships have evolved and dissolved over time. It’s a real fucking bummer.

*

Okay, okay. Not everything about birthdays is a bummer. So. To appease all you birthday lovers out there, this is what I kinda sorta like about my birthday.

4 Reasons Why, Despite All My Many Issues, Birthdays Can Still Be Fun:

  1. Food and Drinks

This is your opportunity to eat all the food you love. For this birthday, I managed to eat croissants, burgers and fries, tacos, ice cream, and drink wine and tropical drinks. I made my food dreams come true.

2. You have an excuse for one day (sometimes more if you’re super skilled) to do exactly what you want and force other people to like it.

Want to do something that you know no one else has ever expressed an interest in? This is your moment! I was able to force my sister to go to Vancouver with me and drag her all around the city, into bookstores, and to markets.

3. Good friends

These are those few friends, who, despite the distance, still make you feel loved and remembered on your birthday.

4. Cake. All. The. Cake.

And don’t you dare tell me this belongs in the “food” category. Cake deserves it’s own category.

 

 

Confessions of a Salty Barista: The Imagined Lives of my Customers

Sometimes, I like to imagine people’s lives when I’m working. People come into the café to meet, to conduct business, to work on their laptops. And I like to take these snippets of their lives inside the café and extend it beyond to what their life in the outside world is like. It’s like a fun writing activity where I can create characters and also judge people. It’s the best of both worlds.

So I thought instead of telling you about the regulars or the baristas or the weirdest shit that has happened to me, I’d blend nonfiction and fiction together and show you what I do every day.

Note: These are based on real people. Many of the details I share, are true. But my imaginings are (unfortunately) completely fictional.

Butter Coffee Dieters

There are a number of people who order butter in their coffee. They always look at you as if they’re waiting for you to question their decisions. Most of them are on the Keto diet and, I imagine, love to talk about it. They love it when people ask why the fuck they are putting butter into their coffee so then they can explain how the Keto diet works by ingesting mostly fat (no carbs!) in order to then burn fat. They believe they’re being healthy even though they’re most definitely not. Last month they probably tried out Paleo or the raw food diet until giving that up, binging a bunch of food, and then deciding Keto would work out much better. They just love fad diets that are unsustainable. They enjoy punishing themselves by eating foods that are gross. They’re not so big on self-acceptance.

The Serial Killer

One guy comes through the drive thru every day and orders the same thing. He’s quiet. He talks slowly, drawing out the order, even though he gets the same thing every day. He always orders a venti coffee, a venti unsweentened black iced tea, a piece of pumpkin loaf, and an egg and cheese protein box, which contains hardboiled eggs, cheese, bread, and fruit. To me, there’s something psychotic about someone who eats the same thing every day. I decided that if any of our customers is a serial killer, it’s him. I imagine he has a girl tied up in his basement because he has mommy issues. When he gets home, he takes out his egg and cheese protein box and slowly feeds those hardboiled eggs to that girl. I imagine he’s the kind of serial killer who collects body parts of his victims. When he’s done hand-feeding hardboiled eggs, he cuts her up into tiny pieces. He has a box just containing toes, ears, and eyelids in his freezer. Look. He’s just got that vibe.

The Indecisive

There are people who will stare up at the menu, or sit at the speaker box in the drive thru and will not be able to make a decision. They will start their order, stop their order, change their mind a million times, ask you questions and then not use that information at all. They don’t understand how drive thrus work. They don’t understand how menus work. After every exhausting interaction like this where I’ve had to hold someone’s hand, I imagine these people trying to do anything at all in the real world. They probably wake up and take two hours to pick out an outfit because they just can’t decide. They probably picked their profession because they once saw a brochure of a happy smiling real estate agent and just went with it because it was easier than having to actually decide. They just go through life exhausting customer service workers and struggling every step of the way. It’s a miracle they make any kind of decision at all.

The Regular Everyone Hates

He’s fueled by hatred. He eats a bowl of it every morning. He hates people. He has come inside telling me a woman driving out of the drive-thru waved at him and asked me to tell “these women to calm down.” He’s fat shamed customers, once he pointed to a woman sitting at a table behind him and said she’s had too many of our sugary drinks. He likes to tell us that he single handedly has helped us with getting raises by being a stock holder. He’s married, but I imagine she doesn’t exist. He just carries a picture of a woman in his wallet that he got out of a magazine. I imagine he wakes up every day with Fox News blaring. He watches old Bill O’Reilley shows and has them saved in his DVR so he’ll always have them. When he’s not watching that, he sits on his porch and screams at anyone in the vicinity. He basically lives his life like Clint Eastwood in Gran Torino except there’s no redeemable ending.

The Chicken Nugget Man

There’s a man who is super energetic all the time probably because he’s snorting coke in his spare time. (That bit is a fact that I received from a coworker.) Once, he apparently gave everyone chicken nuggets from Chick Fila and now we call him the Chicken Nugget Man. He always sneaks in a “thanks babe” or “thanks hon” or “thanks [insert any word that reinforces how I’m a woman and inferior]” into the conversation. I imagine he watches Wolf of Wallstreet and finds it inspirational. I also imagine that he’s now a little too old to be still acting the way he is and life isn’t really going according to his plan. He can’t just buy a bunch of nuggets anymore for baristas he barely knows. His shady business isn’t doing so hot. He made a couple of bad bets. His favorite stripper with the heart of gold just graduated with a business degree and is leaving the strip club. So he just takes another snort of cocaine and tries to stay positive.

The Cool Girl

There’s a super cool girl who always comes in the drive-thru. She wears cool clothes. She’s always got on her sunglasses. She’s got tattoos. She’s got cool ear piercings. She rocks big headphones with one ear exposed so that she can listen to me and interact. She’s obviously nice, because of the one headphone off her ear. I imagine she’s an artist and she works at some cool job. She might be a tattoo artist. She might be a graphic artist. Whatever she does, it’s cool. When she walks into a room, “Cool Girl” starts to play. She has no problems at all. She is completely happy in every single way and I want to be her.

10 Things I Learned as a Bridesmaid

This past weekend my friend got married and I was a bridesmaid for the first time. I figured since I had watched plenty of movies and TV shows about weddings, and since I could basically quote Bridesmaids word for word, I was fully prepared.

I was not.

I have learned so much from being in a wedding. I learned that I become instantly vain when a professional does my makeup. I learned that my eyeballs try to reject fake eyelashes by crying them off. I learned that my fake eyelashes make me cry more than the promise of a lifelong love. I learned that you can burn your hand on a sparkler and that people won’t believe you when you say you burned your hand on a sparkler until you show them your deformed hand.

But aside from these very important lessons, there are a few more things I learned that I thought might be more applicable to you just in case you figured out sparklers when you were eight.

Image result for bridesmaids

1. The fashion industry is bullshit and doesn’t understand women’s bodies.

When I ordered my dress, I kind of assumed since I was paying more, someone would be making a dress just for me with the measurements I gave them. But apparently, life isn’t like Project Runway. There’s actually just a girl that works at a store who takes your measurements, compares them to a scale and determines which size is probably going to fit all your bits and pieces. When I gave my measurements, the girl was like, ‘Everything but your waist and hips match this one size. Your hips are just too fucking big.’ Okay. She didn’t say those exact words. But still. So I had to order a dress three sizes too big just to get these hips into anything and even with alterations, the bust was still ginormous. So basically fashion is just one big guessing game and unless I make it to the Oscars, there will never be a dress that fits me perfectly.

2. Being a good bridesmaid involves a cult-like mentality.

Not like, a scary sex cult. Like a nice cult where you just have to support the bride and do whatever she says with a smile on your face. If you say yes all the time, you’re halfway there. Now, it is hard to know how to act in every situation throughout the day. Sometimes you need a joke to ease tension. Sometimes you need to be serious because if you say one more joke everyone is going to punch you. I did not master this balance. But you definitely don’t want to be the bridesmaid who causes problems, or who looks for issues, or makes it all about themselves. I think you want to strive to be a calming presence because there are plenty of other crazies that will make the day hard enough.

3. Unless you’re in the bridal party, you don’t really hang out with the couple.

This whole day is about celebrating two people. But if you aren’t in the bridal party, or the immediate family, you really aren’t going to see much of them. You’ll briefly say hi as they make their rounds, and maybe you’ll get to dance with them for a while, but that’s it. So I guess hope you make the cut for the bachelorette or else it’s kind of just watching these two people live their lives from afar and that instantly makes me sad.

4. Being a bridesmaid comes with perks.

Did you know you get a bridesmaid present? I sure didn’t. But that’s not really the kind of perk I’m talking about. First, of course, is being able to spend this momentous day with one of your closest friends and seeing how happy they are. But also, when the ceremony was over, immediately a server came up to me, asked me what I wanted to drink, and she brought me a vodka soda within five minutes. I have never felt so special. I also cut the cake line (which I probably wasn’t supposed to do, but I was at the point where I kept yelling ‘VIP’ so I felt like I could do whatever I wanted). And the best part of all was waiting in the stairwell before the ceremony with the groom and seeing him cry. It was the sweetest fucking thing ever and only the bridesmaids and his mom witnessed it. VIP!

5. Weddings cost a shit-ton and require so much planning.

This is an obvious one. But, holy fuck do weddings cost a lot. Like, it’s something you always kind of know in the back of your head, but once you start to learn how much every piece of the wedding costs, it’s insane. And really, it’s all complete bullshit. Just because it’s for a wedding, you can tack on an extra $1,000 to the cost. As far as planning, you have to think of everything. My friend had spreadsheets, flow charts, and a treasure map just to chart everything they needed. Okay. Really just some spreadsheets. But one spreadsheet is too many spreadsheets for me.

6. Just because you’ve hired professionals, doesn’t mean they are going to be professional.

Sure, you’ve paid these photographers and coordinators and caterers the cost of three livers and two kidneys on the black market, but that doesn’t mean they are going to do their job well. The night before the wedding, the photographer emailed the bride to tell her she wasn’t going to the wedding because she broke her foot moving a couch. Does that sound like the beginning of a comedy, or what? Not so funny when you’re living it. So this photographer sent her mom in her place with an assistant. You know your mom and her ability to take pictures? Yeah, that’s the level this mom photographer brought to the table. You’d think at least she would have checked in with her daughter about her plans for that day. But you’d be wrong. Despite the difficulties of working with an incompetent photographer, it does give me confidence that I could easily get into the wedding industry and swindle people out of their money.

7. A wedding day is really about managing many different personalities at once.

All of your world’s are colliding in one day. Your work friends, college friends, childhood friends, your family, his family. It’s a lot of personalities merging. And it makes my stomach turn. Of course there are plenty of people who can keep it together for one day. But what if it ends up as an episode of The Office? What if your grandmother freaks because she didn’t know you were living together, much less pregnant? And your mom is jealous of your dad’s new girlfriend? And Dwight bangs one of the bridesmaids who ends up being kind of into him? And then everyone does an awful flash mob to Chris Brown’s “Forever” even though you specifically banned it from the playlist? Trust me. No one wants Chris Brown played at their wedding.

8. Everything is high stakes.

Yes, it might seem like it’s no big deal where Aunt Kathy is sitting during the ceremony but IT’S A BIG FUCKING DEAL. Every tiny detail is life or death. And everyone is always trying to bring up everything that could go wrong every minute as the day progresses. As a bridesmaid who had little knowledge about weddings and therefore little worry about, I just sat back and watched everyone else freak out about things. And I get it. This day has required so much money and planning. You want it to be perfect. But try to remember, even if the guitar cuts out as the bride is walking down the aisle, it will be okay. You’ll keep walking. No one really cares anyway. Except for Aunt Kathy. But she’s just a bitch and no one likes her anyway.

9. There is such a thing as wedding hangover.

No. I’m not talking about an actual hangover, although that is also very likely to happen. I’m talking emotional hangover. For me, the weekend was fun and acted as a kind of reunion of college friends. Sometimes hanging out with all the people you used to see all the time makes you miss them all over again. It just reminds you how awesome they are and how lucky you ever were to find them. So when Sunday came, and it was time to say goodbye and go back to reality, it was like saying goodbye to that time of our lives all over again. And that kind of sucks.

10. As beautiful and wonderful and pretty much perfect this wedding was, I don’t think I’ll ever want a wedding for myself.

This wedding was pretty perfect. It was absolutely beautiful. The food was great. The cake, even better (because there were four kinds and even though I was supposed to only eat one kind, I ate all of them). The band was super talented. There was an open bar. The speeches were even good. But despite seeing how perfect and wonderful a wedding can be, I still don’t want one. I don’t want to plan it. I don’t want to deal with what everyone else wants. I don’t want people telling me about every tiny problem or issue they see. And of course the money. I think for me, I just want a party. But I guess I have to find someone to marry me first, huh?

Crippling Anxiety, a Creepy Customer, and a Cover Letter

There’s a customer at the café who has weirdly become invested in my future. Look. I get objectifying your hot barista and making up who they are and how great you’d be together. Barista Bae and I would’ve had a wonderful life together. But I’m not some crazy person asking him how business school is going or getting invested in his actual future.

This all started when a coworker and I were talking to this customer about being overqualified for our jobs. And I, being the stupid person I am, told him I had two degrees in creative writing. This is very stupid because when you tell someone you’re a writer, they want to keep talking to you. They love to ask you what you want to do and what you’re going to do with your degree. They love to judge you and also tell you about a book idea they’ve had for years now.

From there, predictably, he asked about what I wanted to do. Maybe teaching, I told him. But also maybe a professional napper. I’d kill it at that job.

He became latched onto this teaching aspiration, convinced it was the best decision for me despite knowing absolutely nothing about academia. He just knew “professor” sounded good. He didn’t know that there are almost no full-time positions anymore because it’s cheaper to just hire part-time instructors. He didn’t know that adjunct teachers have large workloads, low pay, and no health care. And he didn’t really care to hear about those aspects either.

When this customer came back a few weeks later, I had just quit my internship. I had been trying to get a cover letter together to send out to universities. I didn’t know what I wanted to do, but I knew I could teach. I figured this was a good place to start.

For a week, I wrote this cover letter over and over and over again. I wrote five drafts. I just felt so overwhelmed. I hadn’t taught in a year. I hadn’t thought about teaching in a year. I didn’t know how to talk about it anymore. How to get back into it.

I had given up on teaching. I donated my books. I tossed my teaching materials. I held onto just a few things, mostly out of laziness. And now I was possibly going back to this world. I wanted to get back to this world… I was pretty sure I wanted to get back to this world. But every day that went by was another day wasted, another day where I might be sabotaging any chance of getting a teaching job.

So. My mindset: ball of sweaty anxiety worrying constantly if I’m fucking up my entire life with this one cover letter.

Enter: customer.

Immediately, he brought up getting a new job. He asked, “So how’s the application coming?” But he said it in a way where he expected that I did nothing and just wanted to make me feel bad.

And I did feel bad. Obviously. I feel bad about things that have I have no control over. Like my dog getting scared when there’s thunder. Or that one time fifteen years ago when I said that thing to that one girl in my history class which has probably affected her for the rest of her life. So obviously I felt bad about how long it was taking me to write the cover letter.

I told him I started the application. He said I’d had three weeks. He was saying that he expected me to be done, have a teaching job, and be head of the department by now.

It’s not like I needed a reminder of how long it had been. I was keeping track all on my own every minute of every day.

He then made me list specifically everything that I had done, like a parent does with their child. Did you brush your teeth? Did you comb your hair? Did you complete your CV?

When I told him everything I had done and that I had started (and restarted) the cover letter. He said, “Well, you can get the cover letter done today.”

I was working a nine-hour shift that day. I had gotten up at 5am to work on my blog and then gone to the café to work nine hours. I wasn’t going to do anything when I got home. I was going to be exhausted.

He said at one point that I sounded like his son. I try to remind myself that this was probably just a way to deal with his issues he has with his son, either his laziness or possible undiagnosed anxiety. This customer didn’t strike me as the kind of guy who understands mental illness.

But anyway. It still doesn’t excuse what he said next.

As I scooped ice into a latte, he said, “Do you want to scoop ice for the rest of your life?”

Oh. I didn’t know those were my only two options. Either get a shitty teaching job or scoop ice (specifically ice and only ice) for the rest of my life.

That’s not what I said though. I deflected with humor as I always do. I said, “Who wouldn’t want to? I just love working here.”

We left the conversation at that while he drank his drink and stared at his phone. And for the next twenty minutes, anxiety squeezed my heart. As he sat there, I thought about the words he said, I thought about the incomplete application, I thought about how I was wasting my time. I was panicking.

And I shouldn’t have been. Here was this guy who thought he had a right to judge me and my life when it’s none of his fucking business. Once, in a previous conversation, he asked where I lived (creepy) and then asked how old I was (still creepy). When he learned I lived with my parents at 26, he said it was time to move out.

And here he was again, trying to judge me. But he wasn’t done yet. When he was done with his drink, he came back up. He said he’d be back on Monday. He’d expect the application to be done. He said I just needed motivation.

What he calls motivation, I call crushing anxiety.

I told him I didn’t think that’s all it takes. It takes a lot of other moving factors, but ok.

He insisted. I just needed motivation. He tried to be inspiring. Saying that I had done all the work. I just had to apply.

I just said sure. Fine. Agreed to get him to leave.

But little did I know, his motivation is what made me complete that application and now I work at Washington University as a professor in the creative writing department.

No. Obviously that didn’t happen.

I did finish my application. But it wasn’t because of him.

After a few more days of crippling anxiety, no doubt heightened because of him, I made a to-do list breaking everything I had to do down to the smallest bullet points possible. I took the pressure off of this application, off of me. Only when I lessened my anxiety, could I complete anything.

Although, maybe I should give him more credit. His “scooping ice for the rest of my life” comment was basically how I was approaching that cover letter. It was all or nothing. It was teaching or barista for the rest of my life. He made me realize how fucking stupid that was. Hearing that said back to me made me realize I was being an idiot.

Maybe I should tell him that. “Oh, hey, dude. Thanks for being a fucking idiot the other day. It really made me realize how stupid I was being. Anyway, how’s your son that you seem to hate?”

6 Reasons Why Summer Is Actually The Worst

It’s May now and that means that summer is upon us. That means it stays light out longer, the weather feels like you’re inside an oven, and we all get a little more skin cancer!

People love summer. Summer break. Fun pool floats. Over-hyped blockbuster movies. And sure. The summer drinks are fun. But no one is keeping you from enjoying a Pina Colada in February.

A classmate in high school once told me that if the weather was warm all throughout the year, everyone would be happy. That day, I murdered that girl. In my mind. Because she’s wrong.

Studies actually show that when it’s warm and humid, it increases violence and aggression. So if you like summer, you’re basically pro-violence.

But me, I hate violence and summer. I’m a Fall person. A rainy day person. A read by the window under a thick blanket as the snow falls kind of person. And it doesn’t help that I’m pale AF and always a little sweaty when it’s above 75 degrees.

So. While everyone else is getting excited about weather that makes my skin feel like it’s melting, I’m here to tell some hard truths about why summer is actually the worst.

6 Reasons Why Summer Is Actually The Worst

1. It’s hot as balls.

Some days it feels like you’re in an oven and can’t breathe. Most of the time, it feels like you’re trying to walk through hot soup because it’s so humid. It’s only May and I’m already over the weather. I’m someone that likes a cool breeze. A crisp 60. Because I’m a generally sweaty person. Summer months mean I’m always slightly damp everywhere. It’s not cute. And I don’t want to spend a significant amount of my summer thinking about boob sweat. But I have to. Because it’s summer.

2. The outfits aren’t as cute.

Girls in shorty-shorts. Girls in crop tops. Girls just in their bathing suits all day long as if that’s not asking for a yeast infection. Look, I’ll give you summer dresses. They’re cute. But other than that, summer clothes were not designed with me in mind. They were designed for tall skinny models who don’t get yeast infections. I can’t put these Beyoncé thighs into shorts. My shorts are either riding up and I’m constantly pulling them down, or they’re spilling out like sausages breaking out of their casing when I sit down. It’s not a great look. I like to dress myself in jeans that elongate my body, layer in jackets, rock a cute boot, and accessorize with knitwear. And also always wear black, always. That doesn’t work in the summer. I still do it. I’ll rock skinny jeans and a black t-shirt all day every day, but it can be torturous if I’m outside for more than 30 seconds in the summer.

3. Chafing. So much chafing

I’m rocking a new summer dress. I look amazing. For once I’m actually wearing summer appropriate clothing. But then. I walk a total of three steps and it hits me. The chafing. My legs are rubbing together, trying to slowly erode my thigh flesh. It’s a form of torture. I would give up any information I had to get the chafing to stop. But it never stops. And I just have to try really hard to walk without my legs touching and not look like a chimp walking on its hind legs.

4. Outdoor activities, or ways to get heat exhaustion quicker

It’s summer! Do you know what that means? Doing a bunch of activities that might give you heat exhaustion. What can you do this summer, you ask? How about the pool? Surround yourself by a bunch of hot sweaty people sitting in a cesspool of bacteria and urine. Or maybe a camping trip? Risk your life by going into bear’s homes. Try not to get into a 127 Hours type of situation, though. Because that movie was hard enough to watch. Living it is probably even worse. Maybe a trip to the lake is more your style? You can always do super fun water sports like ride a water motorcycle surrounded by drunk adults driving boats. More of a beach person? Head to the beach and spend the following days still finding sand on your body. But if you’re a pale sweaty person who hates summer and people, I’d recommend going from one air-conditioned place to the next without ever being outside long enough to know what temperature it is.

 

5. The sun is my enemy

For everyone else that isn’t translucent, I’m sure the sun is real fun. Vitamin D and all that. But for me, someone who has been mistaken for a ghost, the sun is my enemy. I have gotten so much sunburn in so many weird ways. I’ve gotten sunburn while sitting in the shade. I’ve gotten sunburn just on my elbows. Also, just on my knees. Once I used expired sunscreen as a child. That was a fun summer vacation. So if I want to go outside, I have to reapply my 250 SPF sunscreen every hour if I don’t want to burn. And even then, even if I avoid sunburn, the sun blooms tiny freckles and sunspots and old acne scars on my face. And suddenly, I look like a fifteen year old ghost with bad skin.

6. Mosquitos: real life vampires

You’re enjoying a night outside, on the porch, a margarita in hand. And then the mostiquos come. You thought you’d be fine. You have 15 citronella candles surrounding you. You sprayed yourself head to toe with OFF and you’ve almost passed out twice from the smell. Your efforts are futile. It starts with just one. You feel something on your leg, a bite. It’s starting. Then, the next comes. The next. They overtake you, swarm. They cover every inch of your body. Your life is a horror film. Okay… Fine. Maybe not just like that. But I was once bitten 30 times in one night. The next summer, it was 20 in one night. Sure. One or two mosquito bites are annoying. But get 30 bites and you feel physically ill, everything itch-hurts, and you can’t sleep for the first three nights. It’s almost like summer is telling me that I should never go outside…

Dumb and Desperate: My Time as an Intern

I scour the newsstands in Barnes and Noble for the magazine that has my name in it. I’m just looking for some kind of physical proof that I did something, that I accomplished something these past seven months. I finger through titles to check behind every magazine, just in case it’s buried. I scan every end cap, every stand. There’s nothing. Nothing at all.

*

When I started my internship, I kept joking that the magazine might not even be real. There was some instinctual part of me that knew this magazine wasn’t super legit. But when I started, I was so desperate for things to go right, I didn’t really think. I just acted.

When I searched Indeed.com one day in September and found this perfect remote internship for a new travel magazine, I felt hopeful. I could actually get this. And I could work in my pajamas! Within days of applying and interviewing, I got the internship.

There was no contract. No official agreement. There wasn’t even a clear guideline of how long the internship would be. I didn’t ask. I should have asked. But I didn’t because I wasn’t thinking. I was just desperate for something to go right.

For the next seven months, I would learn a lot about my editor and yet not very much at all. I just learned recently he was an aspiring actor at eighteen and I’m still shocked about it just because I don’t think Hollywood is really casting that many roles for creepy sociopathic white dudes. Oh wait. What am I saying? Hollywood loves sociopathic white dude anti-heroes.

Anyway. He’s a writer. He lives in Canada. He’s done a bunch of interviews with famous people. He loves to list off their names. And you kind of figure when you’re a dumb and desperate graduate that an interview with Matthew McConaughey makes someone legit.

My editor was the kind of guy who expected me to email him back immediately as if this were an actual paying job, but he would take as much time as he wanted to reply to my questions. He was the kind of guy who would give me very specific instructions when it came to obvious things, but wouldn’t give specifics on the actual piece I was writing. He’d give me tidbits like, “research this – very, very well.” As if I was thinking about researching something badly. Very, very badly. When I’d ask about specifics of what he wanted, many times I would be met with silence. Other times, he’d just repeat the same vague directions in a slightly different way. So I ended up rewriting almost every piece I wrote for him. I’d write 2,000 words of something, he’d tell me it wasn’t what he was looking for, and only then would he clarify what he actually wanted.

He would also very rarely give deadlines. I did mention that he never told me how long the internship was, right? Apparently this guy isn’t big on time in general. Every deadline was a guessing game. When I asked the deadline of one assignment so I could make sure I could get it back to him on time, he said, “Just to be clear, as I am concerned that there may be some confusion regarding the internship, but as an intern you are expected to manage your time as needed to manage all given assignments.” So I stopped asking. And I’d just guess and buy time.

Once, he asked me to transcribe an interview he conducted. He first said it was 30 minutes. The second email said it was 41 minutes. When I opened the file it was 50 minutes. Once, he had me buy 200 envelopes to send out the issue in and then decided it would cost more that way after sending me on an “urgent” trip to the Post Office to figure out the cost of shipping the week the magazine was supposed to be mailed out. I spent $30 on those envelopes. I never got reimbursed.

But if that had been all of it, I would have been okay. If he had just been dismissive of my time and effort, if he had just been bad at clarifying what he wanted and generally communicating, it would have been fine.

But I found his Twitter page. And things changed. His page consists of almost all retweets from Fox News and Brietbart. They contain a full range of homophobic, sexist, and racist ideas and opinions, some more subtle than others. Like, this guy probably doesn’t hate Nazis. He probably sees where they’re coming from. That’s this guy. And he was my editor.

And then, we discussed my first feature article for the magazine.

Side note: Did I mention this was a magazine solely focused on Route 66? Yeah. One fucking road. Doesn’t seem like a super sustainable topic for a whole magazine. Like, how many times can you cover restaurants in Flagstaff?

Anyway.

For my first piece, I had found a female filmmaker who was collecting oral histories of women who had lived along Route 66 for a documentary. She’s a badass. She wanted to make the road, which is a white dude’s paradise, finally about the women who are often forgotten or only thought of as migrant mothers carrying their children through the Dust Bowl. That’s boring. She told stories of women who were congresswomen, entrepreneurs, travelers, educators, and artists. They overcame adversity and changed the status quo.

I was excited. I thought it was relevant and new and interesting. I wanted to write a thoughtful piece about these women who have never had a chance to be heard. About why it’s important to remember these stories today.

He didn’t see my vision. He envisioned a magazine that romanticized everything about Route 66. At one point he actually used the words “50’s optimism.” He wanted light-hearted. He wanted to project the 50’s as the best time in America. And I thought that was complete and utter bullshit.

He said he wanted to “romanticize the role of women.” He actually said that. So I told him I didn’t think I could romanticize the experiences of women of color when their stories deal with racism and segregation. We went back and forth over what this story was actually about until he reluctantly agreed to my topic. But he warned me not to “make victims out of anyone in the story.” He said I shouldn’t “make anyone the bad guys.” Oh, like the racists? The sexist pigs? Right. We need to protect them.

When I wrote the first draft of my women on 66 piece, he asked to take out any feminism in the story. Obviously he doesn’t understand what feminism is. Because that’s impossible to take out all feminism in a piece about women being awesome.

And then, he made the piece a human interest piece. Which is a nice way of taking something thoughtful and interesting and making it a fluff piece that doesn’t say much of anything. He asked me to talk about a few of the actual women in the piece. To describe their lives. And specifically, to mention their husbands, their children.  He said, “I am just concerned about a piece too focused on the entrepreneurial aspect of these women when they were wives and mothers also. These roles were just as important and no less impacting on the route.”

He’d never have asked me to include information about a man’s wife and kids if the story was about the business he started.

After that, it was the same issue again and again. My editor wanted to write content that had been written a million times over. He wanted to preserve the romanticized image of Route 66, of the time when white men ruled and everyone else was fucked. I wanted to focus on those who had been ignored. I wanted to talk about something new. I wanted to shit on that romanticized image he had in his head.

He stopped asking me to pitch ideas and instead gave me assignments that I didn’t care about. And then those assignments became less and less. For the second issue, he didn’t even ask me to proof the magazine.

Slowly, I was being pushed out.

But I stayed. I wanted to get something out of this internship. I wanted to have some pieces to show. But it was clear that I wasn’t going to get the feature articles I wanted. After this revelation, I asked for the files of my stories.

But nothing is ever easy with my editor. The pieces he’d posted for the online magazine didn’t have my name on them. When I asked just for a copy with my name on it, so I could prove I wrote it, he said no. That they weren’t feature articles and even though they look exactly the same as “feature” articles online that did have bylines, he wouldn’t put them on my pieces. He also never told me the online pieces wouldn’t have my byline. He never told me what was and wasn’t a feature article. But he assured me to use the links and, “There should be no reason anyone would assume you are being dishonest.”

For a few hours, my friend and I texted back and forth, crafting responses to his nonsense. I tried to stalk the other interns online to find contact information in an attempt to start an intern revolution and get our names on the work we had done. Here was this guy who was exploiting emerging writers, and I wanted fucking justice.

But my intern revolution died and so did any dream I had of being a detective. Because I couldn’t even find one of the three interns. Not a Facebook profile. Not a LinkedIn profile. Nothing.

It was just another defeat in accepting that this might have been a complete waste of time. And once again, I was reminded as to how little control I had with my own writing.

After the byline fiasco, I handed off my latest piece of writing to him and asked about the other three pieces I was still working on. The other three pieces I still had to write, even though I knew they would never have my name on them.

Two weeks passed. He never responded.

It felt like my time was over there.

I thought about just ghosting him. Clearly he was doing that to me. But (in another discussion with my friend) I decided it would be better to officially cut ties and also appear like more of a professional.

He responded to that last email the same day. He said something very nice and very untrue about how they would miss me writing for them. And that was it.

It was all so anti-climatic. After all of this, what did I have to show for my time with this shady magazine?

Over seven months I had acquired two files of stories with my byline, a few online pieces that would never have my name, a fake twitter account to make it appear like I was following the magazine, and 200 envelopes that will sit in my closet probably until the end of time.

*

I go to Barnes and Noble again. This time, it’s when the new issue comes out. The last one I’ll be featured in. But there’s nothing. I go to a different Barnes and Noble. Nothing. I never find that magazine. I’m still not entirely convinced this magazine even exists. Maybe it’s some huge practical joke played on me. A weird, less entertaining version of Punk’d. Where are you, Ashton? Or, maybe this has all just been one man’s delusion I’ve been a part of.