This poem is from my time of disillusionment with employment in fast food restaurants. Believe it or not, I was actually thrilled to be working at Arby’s when I was seventeen. It was my first job, and I’d been desperate enough to get one that very little fazed me. I cleaned vats (hot, greasy, disgusting labour which put me off eating deep-fried foods permanently), handled raw roasts (already a vegetarian since age six, so no life change there), cleaned bathtub-sized sinks’ worth of cooking dishes, cleaned up after customers who didn’t take the “thank you” signs on garbage bins as hinting towards anything in particular, and slapped beefy sandwiches together as fast as I could – all for $6/hr (“training wage”). I was up to $8/hr a few months in, and still liked my job well enough. When I found out I was a writer, I decided that working at Arby’s was all a big inspiration-for-my-work deal that the universe cooked up especially for me (after all, I did meet interesting people). I loved feeling like an undercover observer…on good writing days, at least. It wasn’t until I switched to Tim Horton’s for the chance to escape vats and make $9/hr that I began to feel that my down-to-Earth life was too mundane. Coffee became the new enemy. I was soon so sick of brewing, pouring, stirring and fussing over picky customers that I made all the hot drinks on my fantasy planet (Drescopata) exist only as weeds. Apparently, even pesky coffee weeds interfering with an entire planet of crops wasn’t satisfying enough. In hindsight, I feel that hot oil vats are far more deserving of a resentful poem, but I guess my writing just wasn’t in a resentful place until I was a coffee worker.
There is a blue sweetener, then there’s a yellow,
Switch them, mistake them, I doom coffee drinkers.
There’s stir with a straw,
Then there’s with a spoon,
There’s cup and there’s mug,
There’s milk and there’s cream.
It’s gravely important
Or so I must believe,
Else where is the meaning;
Achievement I crave?
If coffee should fail then so should existence.
I’ll think it that way or not care at all.