Remembering a coffee

During a non-teaching week a number of years ago, I was enjoying the relative quiet of campus. When I saw the barista who consistently made coffees I liked at the espresso machine and the absence of a queue, I stopped to purchase a coffee. My peaceful enjoyment was interrupted by awareness of my privileged position. I was able to hear an early career academic describing to the barista how lovely it would be to just make coffees all day.

Looking at her wrapped up in layers against the weather politely validating this man, I thought it somewhat depressing that he worked in the tower that was mostly home to departments in the social sciences and humanities. Making coffee, listening to people or even being outside is not necessarily ‘bad’. However, to suggest these tasks were removed from the challenges of academic work and so less demanding seemed rather problematic.

Walking past one of the latest cafes to open in Port Melbourne a number of months later, I saw this same barista behind the espresso machine. I spoke with her and found she now travelled in the early morning from the other side of the city. I later found out from somebody else that she had to find a new job when her shifts at the place she worked on campus were cut back as part of a cost reduction exercise by the owner.

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