4.20.2011

super massive black holes of emotional need

i've been stuck on this blog post, editing and re-editing it for two days. i'm trying to find a balance between professional coffee house owner and the down to earth brat you've always known. i'm trying to be diplomatic when it comes to the things i need to vent about, and i'm also trying to keep my identity veiled as i am now really, REALLY concerned about people reading what i write and realizing they're the ones i'm ranting about!

oi. i need to quit telling my customers about "this little blog i used to do", and i definitely need to quit accepting facebook friend requests from them! i'm at the point where i'm worried i will have no space of my own to unload, be stupid or make comments without one of my regulars coming in the next day to ask about a song lyric i posted, or which one of my attractive friends is single.
as i'm typing i realize i've brought this upon myself. but like i said, now it's a matter of finding that balance.
yes, i want to gripe about a customer whose negativity was so heavy last week, it put me into a funk that lasted a couple days, but i also want to keep this person as a regular customer because most of the time i enjoy our conversations.

this is an issue i honestly did not anticipate. being a small independent coffee house means your customers have more access to you. in a way, you are the coffee house. they come to see you specifically, in addition to buying your beverages. i always knew baristas were part time therapists and counselors, but with a select few of my customers it feels like a full time job. maybe some of them weren't hugged enough as children. maybe some of them are genuinely angry every waking moment. maybe my coffee house is the one place they feel comfortable enough to unload without fear of repercussion.
if the latter is true, then i definitely don't want to do anything to jeopardize that. i like being someone's bright spot. i enjoy feeling like i've made a positive difference in someone's life. but i am not loving the darkspace i go to after a lengthy visit from a volatile and emotionally needy patron. it seriously felt like all the light and positivity had been sucked out of me, and i needed a refill.

and unfortunately, i ended up doing what was done to me to another one of my regulars (yeah, this sentence is convoluted and awkward but i haven't the energy to clean it up).
complaining customer was still in the store, spewing negativity, when upbeat customer came to order an espresso. i verbally latched onto upbeat customer, wanting to keep engaged with him as long as possible because i knew once he was gone, the lightness would leave my coffee house and i'd be stuck with complaining customer again.
i'm sure my desperation was obvious and repelling, but i couldn't help myself. i needed to hold onto a lifesaver to drag me out of the putrid pond i was sinking in. poor upbeat customer had no clue what he was in for, and it was painful for me to watch him try and gently ease himself out of my store. and although i knew i was chasing him away with my desperation, i couldn't help myself.

in a weird way this experience has helped me identify with my complaining customer and empathise with him/her. perhaps this might help keep me from being affected so deeply his/her negativity.
maybe.
one can hope, right?

7 comments:

eveghost said...

So glad I know this isn't me cos I haven't been in for a week! hahaha.

barista brat said...

haha - you're always spewing the negativity! i only let you come around because you're cute!

SkippyMom said...

ooooh I can't stand people that are constantly negative. Drives me nuts. It really is too bad that you are a captive audience to them.

Glad you got a wee break with the upbeat customer. I hope you get more like him/her.

Random Thinker said...

I go through the same thing with my blog. I'd love to tell some stories about the people I have to put up withe every day in HR but it just wouldn't be right. If I do unload I try to do it in a very generalized fashion.

dsaronin said...

Hi Brat .. after all these years of enjoying your blogs, my first comment, and perhaps some sympathy and upbeat warmth for you right now. First, I think you did a good job of balancing your feelings, protecting your customer's anonymity, and venting. Maybe not the boisterous bux brat of yore, but a maturing reflective balancing brat. Balance is the keyword. Obviously, your self is telling yourself that you cannot sink too deep into someone else's dark (or even light) space. It will pull you down, and you have a job to do, a business to run, multiple customer's inner childs to attend to, and your own energy levels to maintain. We readers do love your forthright views about modern day American consumer foibles. Given some rest, I think the fiction author part of you can come up with appropriate fictionification turning customers into generic characters to satisfy our appetites. Without sufficient rest, do vent -- but in private blogs not yet ready for the light of day and the inner author to do her stuff.
thanks for sharing with us!

purplegirl said...

But upbeat customer came back just like I told you he would, so obviously he didn't mind so much. :)

And I don't envy you trying to balance things out -- anonymity is the only way for me, I don't have your tact!

barista brat said...

skippymom - most my customers are like upbeat customer, thankfully!

random thinker - and yet we still need a place we can safely vent, right?

dsaronin - thanks for your comment! i'm hoping, with rest and practice i will be able to do exactly that!

purplegirl - i freakin' love you. that is all.