My name is Hannah. I’m a Barista . . . and I have a photographic log of napkins. More specifically, photos of napkins that have been crinkled up and abandoned to float in cold coffee drinks. It’s a casual hobby. I don’t know what it is about that partial mess contained in white porcelain that keeps me locked in.
It’s beautiful how each napkin tells so much about a person. Much like the contents of a shopping cart can tell you. Only, here I get to see a brief but beautiful secret window not just in a grocery store passing, but all of the time.
Every day I get to hand people the tools to do something and then I receive what they leave behind. Most of the time people listen to their mom’s advice (the little voice in the back of their brains) and don’t do something as ridiculous as putting paper napkins in a half empty cup.
However, on occasion, I am blessed with that frustratingly cool offering.
For instance, the tight ball of a napkin shows the finality and firm decisiveness of an individual. Cookies are rarely involved but it’s usually a chocolatey drink they had in front of them.
And then there is the folded napkin. It usually contains crumbs of a consumed item but it shows the neatness and organized person in question. These people usually don’t tip more than the spare change they get back from their purchase, probably to get rid of the mess.
And last, the loose crumple. I see the most of these. It’s usually the creatives, the chatterboxes, and the adventurers. It’s these people that have the best kind of puns hidden up their sleeves. Yet, I see the unabashed toss of every type of napkin into the mug and I can’t help but notice how something so absurd can float.
I’ve been a barista at an independent coffee shop for four years now. As time goes on, my reasons change for continuing my work. Months meld into years and I keep going back to the fundamental truth.
Even at the young age of 22, a lot of my life has been stolen away by depression. I will do what it takes now to make sure no more of my life is taken away from me in the future.
So, if that means I have to deal with 1. Sleepy, un-caffeinated, grumpy strangers, 2. take money from them, and 3. explain what size a “tall” actually is . . . then, yeah, I’ll accept the challenge.
Because those reassuring gifts of smiles, laughs, and frustratingly cool napkins my customers give me are kinda worth it.