Sunday, December 18, 2005

It Pays to Work

The following article was located by one of our international staff in a foreign publication:

I know there are several people out there who just enjoy working. This has come to my attention, since I'm not one of them. There has been some discord as to what the true nature of work should be, and I think this is a topic worth addressing.

Never having worked as a kid, I suppose it is natural that I would lean toward just simply "doing nothing." I don't mean this literally, of course, because even the most novice academian would quickly assert that such involuntary actions exist such as breathing, digestion, and the like. I'm going to go ahead and be honest with you--I don't really understand that argument. According to my fifth grade teacher, I pretty much always "did nothing" (her words). If she is an active blogger she might by happenstance come upon this here blog and settle the issue of whether she believed that I was literally doing nothing or simply doing nothing voluntarily. While I would say that I lead an active lifestyle and it is therefore difficult to find time for the things I love, I am currently unemployed, which allows plenty of time for my chosen profession.

I said I was unemployed. This is not to say that I am not engaged, however. In fact, I have been freelancing as a cafe scout for about twelve years now. Although I really can't say that this pays the bills, but it is a stepping stone on the road to becoming a world class athlete, doctor, or attorney. Cafe scout is a rather common occupation in my country, and it is not a position to be taken lightly. Believe it or not, it seems that there is quite a need for seemingly ordinary people to frequent various cafes around town, ostensibly in order to rate the quality of the beverages and service at each.

However, this is one of the common misconceptions about what I do. Being a cafe scout is really more of an art than a science, and there are many different aspects that usually get pushed under the table. I actually end up spending at least two to three hours every morning getting warmed up for the daily routine. This may involve any number of actual steps, but the main idea is always the same: go to my neighborhood's local watering hole and order an espresso or two. While this may seem like a mundane step--in fact, it's often overlooked--it sets the tone for the entire day. It is important to note the amount of espresso in the cup, as well as the temperature, acidity, and strength of the brew. After this, I usually go the extra mile and note the attributes of the foam as well: height, weight, fat content, and whiteness factor. Once I have assimilated all of these complex data in my mind while remaining neutral and objective, I have begun to compile several hypotheses as to the products and methods used in the preparation of my espresso. Contrary to popular belief, it then of utmost importance to simply disregard--nay, forget--all of these observations, opinions, and hypotheses. I often achieve this goal by muttering a simple "Good coffee today, Zvonimir." Zvonimir makes the coffee at my local cafe.

After the morning warmup, it's time to get into action. This is when I will often pick up the cell phone and dial a couple of numbers. Usually I dial the numbers of friends and acquaintances, but today I'm out of contacts, so I'll just bug the randoms, as they say in my line of business. This involves calling perfect strangers and asking if they would accompany me to a local cafe for coffee. I know you guys might find that odd, but in my country going for coffee is more of a ritual than anything. After checking my wristwatch--12:09 pm--I dial and then push the 'send' button. Today, I'm in luck! Not only did this stranger accept my request, but it turns out he has some serious connections. Connections are important in this town, and really nothing can get done unless you have them. At least, that's what my parents taught me.

When we arrive at the cafe it is almost 3:45 in the afternoon, and the sun is already heading for the hills, so to speak. We enter the smoky, dimly lit room, and immediately the barista waves at us. She knows this new contact of mine! It's so loud I can hardly hear what they are saying, but all of a sudden we are walking back to a small door in a far corner of the room. All of the locals there are looking at us with peripheral vision, which is always spooky. We are ushered into a small chamber that is kept closely under lock and key. Inside, there is a private sink and toilet, and all sorts of bottles Apparently it's a custodial closet! The waitress quickly takes our order, and we sit down. After the usual pleasantries, we exchange information about our occupations. Then, I briefly thank him. If it weren't for my new friend and his solid connections, we would never have been able to get our own private meeting room. After an hour of conversation, a small cup of espresso, and a pack and a half of cigarettes, it's time to head out. I'm quite tired from this long day, but since I'm a man of character, I'll get up tomorrow and be back at the grindstone.

Notice that I never used the words work or job anywhere in here. I simply do what I can, and I hope that is enough. My hope is that people out there would just realize that it's easy to do your own thing. You don't have to have that nagging boss around you all the time or those annoying office parties. Of course, sometimes some of those things are accompanied by really positive elements like paychecks, job security, and productivity. But you know what? If I could go back fifteen years to when I was a young lad out of university, I wouldn't change a darn thing. In fact, I'd go back and do the whole darn thing over again.


Blogger Zlatko said...

I admire your respect for the simple yet profound things in life (i.e. whiteness factor). I am in awe of your confident ease with which you daily accomplish so much without even trying (digestion, breathing, and the like) and even pride yourself in it. If only all persons of our little world appreciated those things that are truly important.

12:31 PM  
Blogger vintage said...

Seems like your handle should be Mr. Wack(o).....
You should try work... it really does pay the bills.
Spending all of your time at espresso bars reminds me of one of my kids. He hangs out in Orange County,CA and spends ALL of his time making and drinking coffee. Even HE finally got a job at Starbucks....that's a start!

11:22 AM  
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6:31 AM  

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