Another day, another dollar

Beep! Beep! Beep! My alarm sounded at 3:30 a.m. to wake me for another hectic day of serving hundreds of half-awake, coffee lovers. “Yikes,” was my first thought, as I glanced at myself in the bathroom mirror. With dark under-eye circles and hair cocked to the side, I looked like a zombie who had just risen from the dead.

I threw on my red-orange collared shirt, khakis, name tag and visor, and I jumped in my car. It was still pitch-black outside. The air was cool and crisp.

Off I went for a long, eight-hour shift at America’s favorite restaurant in the history of coffee. Yawning, I entered the dimly lit cookie-cutter restaurant where the aroma of freshly baked muffins and doughnuts emanated from the commercial oven in the kitchen out back. Meanwhile, the smells of just-brewed coffee and fresh iced tea wafted to the front cash register, where I clocked in to begin my shift at the beloved Dunkin’ Donuts.

Almost immediately, at 4:30 a.m., an eager customer pulled up to the drive-through to place an order. “Good morning, I will have an extra large hot coffee with four sugars and extra, extra cream. And make sure it’s four sugars – and not too much cream,” the driver said.

For most people, having a coffee every morning is a critical part of their day. So it was also imperative that I recorded the order accurately and delivered the coffee precisely as the customer wanted. They say in the industry that, “the customer is always right” – which means whatever the customer wants, they get.

Meanwhile, with minimal enthusiasm, I politely responded, “That will be $2.19. Please drive forward.” I did that about another 70 times throughout the morning, telling each customer to “have a nice day.”

In high school, and for part of college, I worked as an order-taker, cashier and barista – a job in which people are often not given much credit. While it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to brew and serve coffee, working in the coffee biz can be stressful and tiresome: early morning hours, simultaneous tasks (i.e., making one order while taking another), dealing with picky customers, etc.

But it’s a job that I will always remember and honestly, be thankful I had.

Though I dreaded certain aspects of the business, I acquired several lifelong skills at “DD” that have transferred to my professional life after college, including how to effectively communicate and multi-task, while maintaining a positive attitude.

It prepared me for the real world, both personally and professionally. Most of all, it taught me how to interact with people from various walks of life, how to listen carefully and communicate clearly.

I believe everyone has a purpose in life. Working at a busy coffee franchise is not mine (that’s not to say those who do plan to, or already work at, Dunkin’ Donuts aren’t cut out for other jobs). My DD stint was validating in a sense that I could not see myself waking up at 3 a.m. for the rest of my life for a job I did not find the least bit rewarding.

Though it paid the bills, I didn’t enjoy pouring coffee after coffee, and serving doughnuts wasn’t exactly challenging. I wasn’t ashamed to work there; I just wasn’t fulfilled. “Another day, another dollar,” would be the best way to describe how I felt.

My indifference to working in the fast-food industry served as a sign that going to college for a career I could be proud of was one of the smartest choices I’d ever make. In May, it will be four years since I graduated from Saint Joseph’s College of Maine with a bachelor of arts degree in journalism, and about 31?2 years since I started my first full-time job as a reporter.

Every day, I am thankful for the opportunity to meet new people and share their stories, and to pursue a career that challenges me to be the best writer I can be.

No longer do I wake up every morning to the same monotonous routine ? at least not most days. Rather, I am now more attune to the saying “Love what you do and do what you love” ? and it feels good.

And, I am just glad that my alarm no longer blares every morning – at least not at 3:30.

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