James Coffee Co: Black Ice

Here I am, another day in my second home. There is something warming about this place but also incredibly annoying. I have an intense love-with-a-pinch-of-hate relationship with this place.

I’ve been a regular here since approximately late November 2014. They opened up shop in April 2014. I witnessed the walls coming up and the shops within the shop being constructed, designed, and open up. I witnessed the shelves being stalked with products, new coffee beans introduced. I’ve sat on a stool right in front of the shop owner shooting a commercial of sorts. I was here when they had the original team, when they lost one of their baristas, and when they added two new ones. You’d think we would be best friends by now right? Wrong. So wrong.

5oz espresso from one of my favorite baristas w/ his signature art, classically next to my superman wallet.
5oz espresso from one of my favorite baristas w/ his signature art, classically next to my superman wallet.

This isn’t about “Wah, why aren’t you guys my friends?,” this is about… how weird it is that the progression of my personal relationships with the team has been bounded in molasses. I have friends. I don’t need more. Again, this isn’t about me wanting their friendship, but it is an expression of frustration that I’ve only recently MAYBE begun migrating out of ‘that regular’ to their ‘acquaintance.’ And that’s still a bit of a stretch. Take the shop owner’s brother for example.

The shop owner’s brother hates everyone and everything. He’s typically only here when he’s helping with some construction or when the shop owner is out of town. Whenever he’s here, he’ll often sit with me and we’ll chat a bit. Keep in mind, I’ve been going here for months! A few weeks ago he was here and I brought my friend Karis along with me. He took a liking to her – at least compared to how he takes to everyone else in the world. The only thing he seems to love are his dogs – and dogs in general. Well, when Karis and I were getting ready to leave he extended his hand and said, “I’m _____ by the way. What was your name again?” It occurred to me in that moment that he and I had never been formally introduced before. I only knew his name because I had overheard it. But I was intentional about overhearing everyone’s names because I cared and wanted to know. I wondered. Does he even know my name? We’ve been ‘acquaintances’ for months…

“______, What’s my name?” I dared to ask. He quickly responded, “I’m not sure.” My jaw dropped. Are you kidding me? He defended himself with, “Well, I think I know it but I’m not sure.” His guess?: Elizabeth. Am I being punk’d? I could tell he felt bad though his pride caused him to put off apathy. I saw through it. I know he felt  bad. He felt bad because he could tell that sincerely did hurt me. He called to another barista and asked him if he knew my name. The barista came back with “Alisha.” At least he was close. The next day I waltzed up to the bar and asked another barista, “What’s my name?”

“Alicia. Is this a real test?”

“Thank you!”

The shop owner’s brother was there too and he asked if he could pay for my coffee. “No, that won’t fix this.” I took the stance of coldness towards him the rest of that day.

I must be honest. The coffee and ambiance are not the sole reasons I am a regular here. Nor is it because the shop owner was the former guitarist of my favorite band (though I’ll admit originally that was a significant motivation). I have something embedded in my DNA, a sort of empathetic trait that causes me to take deep interest in relationships with people. I care deeply about specific people burdened on my heart and I’ve taken to the whole James Coffee Co. team for a reason unknown to me. I once told the shop owner’s brother that if I could, I would sit with each of the employees and have them just tell me all about their lives! It’s exhausting at times when it is not reciprocated and there is no interest in reciprocating. So, why’s this post called “Black Ice”?

Quite some time ago I came in with my sister and her recently married friend Kasandra. She wanted an iced tea of some sort. She inquired about an item on the menu called “Garden of Eden” when we were told that it didn’t really exist anymore. They rebranded it to be called “Black Ice” and just haven’t gotten around to changing it on the board. “I’ll do it,” I offered. He handed me a rag to erase “Garden of Eden” and a marker to write in “Black Ice.” With all the other items written in white and my writing written in blue and being written by me… I didn’t expect them to leave it up there. Today, a few months later, I noticed it’s still there and the picture below is from today! I thought it was a representation of my print here. I took a picture in front of one of the baristas – the one who knew my name and pronounced it right. I told him it was my claim to fame here at the shop. If I can permanently exist on your menu board, why am I a kid’s washable marker in their lives that fades away as soon as I step outside their walls? That’s frustrating.

Black Ice
Black Ice

I suppose I’m somewhat making this a hyperbole. I know I mean SOMETHING unique to some of them. The other day I came in upset that my ex had obtained a new girlfriend. The shop owner and some of the baristas noticed I wasn’t myself and the shop owner then whipped me up my 5oz espresso for free, then had me follow him into the back where his office was where he heard me out then offered his advice the best he could. It was thoughtful. Stuff like that shows me they DO care to some degree. My relationships with them do grow. But considering how long I’ve been coming here, they’re certainly not where they logically ought to be.

I’m committed. I WILL migrate firmly into acquaintanceship and eventually to friends. I know it sounds silly and maybe even a little sketch or weird. But I just like them… as people. And I don’t want them to just be the people that serve me my coffee. Because they’re not just people serving coffee. They’re people. They have stories. I want to be able to rejoice with them. Cry with them. Whatever!

As I’m writing this I realize maybe I’m just crazy. Should they JUST be the people that make my coffee? Am I overextending my effort and dropping hundreds of total dollars investing in something that’s not worth investing in? Each espresso and pour over I buy is only a fraction of my interest in the drinks themselves. It’s an investment. Is it a poor one?

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