Sunday, October 24, 2010

Lights are Off... Go Home, Damn It!

A cafe, like any job, serves up its fair share of characters and ours is no different. Over the next week, I'm going to introduce a few of the most common characters, starting with two of my least favorite rodents, the field mouse and the rat.

The Field Mouse - Not a single day passes without at least one encounter with a few field mice, customers that try to enter the cafe after we've closed, seeking refuge from the cold, food-less world outside. Sometimes a single person looking for a late afternoon coffee but more often a family looking to fuel up before getting into the car to return home, the field mouse is never deterred by our locked door. In fact, these customers try ever door (including the exits) and, if still unsuccessful, will search for a side door that might remain unlocked while the utility team cleans inside and out. They pull on the doors and press their faces against the glass. Some wait until someone from the staff (occasionally me) approaches to shoo them away, always asking with a voice full of surprise, "Are you closed?"

Hmmm, I often think to myself. We shut off the lights, working in darkness in hopes of avoiding these types of distractions. Every door is locked, there is no food in sight. Sure, we're open. Come on in! Or not! It's not dignified, begging for scraps. Just get back in your car and cook for yourself or your family. That's what I do - it's rewarding, character building, cheaper. In short, get your tail away from the cafe so this cat can get home.

The Rat - Like the field mouse, a rat is a customer that tries to get into the cafe after closing. But the rat is far more devious and resourceful. Somehow successful in gaining entry to the darkened cafe, the rat quickly scours for food, sometimes removing items from speed racks or the sandwich/salad display area, maybe filling a cup with soda from the fountain while artfully dodging our staff. The rat plays naive with cashiers, expressing surprise that the cafe is closed and confusion as to the meaning of "closed register." And then, the rat tries to rationalize the merits of receiving her or his items for free, to free us of any further inconvenience. Oh, how considerate. Let me thank you by picking up a can of Raid.

We have a couple regular rats that have even gone so far as to lie to our managers about staff involvement in their raids, sometimes even complaints about our poor customer service. Of course, the managers are savvy enough to have security on speed dial. Really, a cafe should never be a target for a small-time Westchester grifter. Just come during business hours, buy your food, and ponder your next investment banking scheme to secure your riches. Leave me and my hourly alone.

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