“So I gave my two weeks”
Bri said it quickly, like she wanted to get it out of the way. I was grinding some coffee. When I turned to her, she was looking at me. I couldn’t read her face. If had I had to pick a word to describe it, though, it would be anxious.
Anxiousness is expected when your starting something new, but this was something different. Bri had worked at Starbucks for around two years. She had even been a shift lead. Now, she’s letting that go, abandoning comfort. This was a big change.
“I know,” I said, “Mike told me.” Neither of us really knew what to say next. Customers swept in, like a tsunami, before we could figure it out. It wasn’t too long before they were climbing over each other, fighting to be the one in their group to pay. I saw a daughter swat her mom with a twenty dollar bill.
“No, It’s my treat! No! Here, take. Take!”
When someone treats me, I’m grateful. When these women treat each other at Starbucks, though, it’s like an insult.
My heart wasn’t in it. I just let them fight it out and took the money from whoever had the longest arms.
Bri, Wayne, Joe and Maya. They were all leaving. It was a good chunk of my group of friends. I’d only have a few left.
Bri had told me she was thinking about leaving a while ago. She told me that, among the three jobs she had, she worked with a company that found musicians for filmmakers looking to score their movies. They wanted her to work full time. They also paid double what Starbucks does.
Bri was only staying at Starbucks to finish undergrad. Starbucks has a program where, if you work a certain amount of hours a week, you can get your undergraduate degree from Arizona state for free. It’s a surprisingly good deal but, as Bri told me, what’s the point in going to school if you’re so tired you’re not learning anything?
As much as it pained me, I told her she should go. Chase the money. Live the dream, man, live the dream.
And now she was.
I had already gotten over the others leaving. That had been coming for a long time. In fact, my buddy John, who left to go to San Diego two or three weeks ago, was hired specifically to help us with a staffing shortage. We all had full knowledge that he would be going. I’d known Maya would be leaving for over three months now.
Bri was a surprise though. I don’t know what I would have said if Mike hadn’t already told me over the weekend.
I can sort of imagine what it’s like to live in a nursing home. You’d have a specter looming over you. Every touch, every laugh, every conversation, every interaction would be shadowed with the thought that this person could die very soon, and there is nothing you can do about it.
How horrible it must be.
Starbucks is kind of the same way. They’re not dying, but from my perspective they might as well be. I only hang out with two people from work, and even that is irregular, though i think that’s mostly because we are all very, very poor. There’s a good likelihood I’ll never see Joe or Wayne or Maya or Bri again. I’ll say bye on their last dayand that’s it.
“Don’t worry,” Bri told me later, “You’ll be next. How’d the Disney thing pan out?” Poorly, at least so far. Like everything related to the industry, promises get you about as far as you can throw them. Words are wind.
It sucks when people you like go, but I guess it comes with the territory. Part time, minimum wage work doesn’t lend itself to keeping people around. Im sure the management has hardened their hearts to it, as have all the lifers. For me, though, it still hurt.
Four hours later I was in my car, on the way to La Crescenta to a pool party in honor of my friend Ben, who was heading back to Wisconsin to start a family.
It was around five, my favorite time of day. The sun was dipping, the shadows were long, and everything started to look orange. There was no traffic, and the road was gorgeous. The thirty minute drive wasn’t bad at all.
I’ve been listening to an album on repeat for the past week. It’s The Mantle by Aggaloch, a sort of darkly beautiful metal/rock piece about life. I didn’t realize it until that drive, but, as I wove in and out of the mountains, I remembered that it was the same album I listened to almost on repeat on my epic five-day trip out here, almost exactly a year ago.
To me, it’s an album of change. As the opener starts, I can feel a door close, and another open. I can taste the wind blow across my face. I see the mountains of Tennessee, and the plains of Oklahoma. I see Texas long-grass and the mesas of Arizona. I see the Nevada desert, the grand canyon, the Mojave, and the rain. I see great empty spaces, the sun setting behind them, painting all the nothing red and orange, the sky afire with pinks and the promises of the West.
I walked into the party, and everyone was there, including a bunch of kids that had just graduated film school, and a few who graduated the year before us.
The juxtaposition wasn’t lost on me.
Saying goodbye to Ben was easier than saying goodbye to Bri, because I know I’ll see him again. Ben’s the kind of guy that would show up one day and say “hey, I’m making a feature film, want to help?” I would say yes.
Then it’d be my turn to quit my job at Starbucks, and chase that setting sun, heading for the horizon, following something new.
“You’re next,” I could hear Bri saying, “I can feel it.”