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Interlude: Crêpes and Coffee

September 12, 2012
Mug of coffee/latte with chocolate swirl

Delicious mocha from the ill-fated café

We all need a coffee break from time to time, a few minutes to relax, recharge our brains, and come back to work feeling more awake. About six months ago, I decided I needed a coffee break longer than 15 minutes.

I was working in a position that, while in the nonprofit sector with a wonderful organization, was not exactly a perfect fit with my broader career experience and objectives. It was time for a break to reflect and reconsider what I wanted to do, while doing something completely different. And what better place for extended reflection than my new neighborhood café?

But rather than simply parking myself at a table for a few hours (or months), I began working at my corner crêpe restaurant and coffee shop, serving customers, making food and lattés, dicing tomatoes, and cleaning up after closing.

The perks were many: free bottomless espresso drinks, discounted specialty food, free meals at work, decadent leftover baked goods, and, my favorite, an extremely short walk of just a couple block around the corner. I grew to recognize more faces in my neighborhood, to feel more closely connected to the immediate area where I lived after years of Metro-ing across town for work.

Of course, nearly every job has its downsides. The pay in the service industry is generally less than that of “professional” work, though the micro-commute and free food/coffee helped cover some of the difference. The lack of benefits like paid vacation or paid sick days or health insurance, the physical nature of the job – I could write an entire lengthy post on the challenges and need for greater workers’ rights in the restaurant industry.

Surprisingly, though, what was the most challenging was one of the very reasons I wanted a different kind of job in the first place – the non-traditional schedule. I had wanted a greater sense of freedom, time off during the day, maybe part-time hours. The schedule had me working all over the clock, though, (not, thankfully, around the clock, except for a few odd 10-hr shifts), often in the evenings, almost always on weekends, and occasionally at 6 in the morning. It was unpredictable, varying greatly week-to-week and even more month-to-month as staff and needs changed.

Instead of feeling like I had more time, I felt like I had less, with irregular free time and less leisure time during the traditional social hours of evenings and weekends. I had less time for personal pursuits like dance and theatre, less time for strengthening friendships over shared meals. I had come to the conclusion that it was time to return to the Monday through Friday, “9-to-5” world. I was happy, though, that I would be able to conduct my search for my next job while I still had the café job.

And then, the restaurant suddenly closed. For whatever reasons, management decided it should not stay open. There was an outpouring of support from the community expressing sadness, but it was permanently closed.

And now, like too many people I know, I find myself unexpectedly among the ranks of the unemployed. After taking a break to work in a different kind of job for a few months, I’m now looking for a job (or gigs) more in line with my professional experience in the nonprofit sector. (Although, since it went out of business, I guess I was working for a “nonprofit” for the last few months! Hah!)

So check out my new Hire Me page! And I may have a few interesting café stories brewing…

Have you ever worked at a job other than your 9-to-5 for a change of pace or for extra income? Or returned to work or your main career after a brief break? I’d love to hear your stories in the comments!

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