Life lessons learned from Mariano’s

Max Minogue, Opinion's writer

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With the start of the new school year, it’s officially my one-year anniversary.

One year ago, a smaller version of myself walked into a neighborhood corporate grocery store and asked for a job. One year later, I still find myself returning to work as a humble barista and devoting hundreds of hours of my life making lattes for North Shore residents.

I’m an employee at a local Mariano’s grocery store. I get a strange and probably pathetic source of pride when I can say that I’ve been in my department longer than anyone.

I always refuse to skip a shift of work for any reason, while at the same time I complain incessantly about work.

A great example of my horrible lack of priorities was the day last year when I stayed home sick from school, but still went into work that night.

Very often I get the question of why I choose to do this to myself. It does serious damage to my sleep schedule, and everybody knows that the real money is in babysitting.

I never have a real answer, but this drive stems from me being one of those odd kids who grew up legitimately excited to become an adult. So, obviously, I would try and play grown-up by working a dozen or so hours a week with other adults.

My first lesson in adulting was that many adults are not as put-together as they seem.

Working in a small 4 by 10 space for hours at a time with only one other person leads to forced conversation, and for me this forced conversation always somehow ends with me learning the intimate details and problems of a person’s life. 

With my first manager, this meant learning about the intimate details of her relationship with her boyfriend, including but not limited to his faltering comedy career and their lack of an active sex life.

With a different coworker, this meant hearing about a severe deficiency of money for basic things like food, combined with spending extreme amounts of money on deluxe animal costumes, along with the relationship issues that come with dating an unemployed Satanist.
These are obviously the more extreme issues, but the overarching theme has always been that stability and composure in adulthood don’t simply come with reaching a certain age. It’s a hard thing to reach, and something worth working towards.

Along with that, I feel like I need to mention the immigrants who work at the store, especially with the upcoming election. Saying that immigrants are some of the hardest working people is starting to become a cliché, but that’s fine because they are.

One of the most interesting coworkers I had was a middle-aged woman who brought me baklava roughly once a week.

At first I would get pretty frustrated with her since she couldn’t speak great English and couldn’t make a good latte even if her life depended on it.

And although the baklava-lady’s barista skills never got much better, I did learn that while she was not a fluent English speaker, she was fluent in Arabic, Assyrian, and Italian. She had left Iraq in her early teens, moved to Italy and lived there for 5 years, then came over to America.

Still, after living in America for decades and having her kids all grown up, she had to keep working two jobs to support herself and her sick mother.

So I guess the biggest lesson that came out of my job is being an adult in the real world is a lot different than I expected.

I’m sure that for a majority of us, our career paths will be an upward climb, simply because of the opportunities we’ve been given. But for most adults in the real world, simply maintaining status quo is hard enough.

As a current senior in high school, I’ll try to relish the days I have in high school rather than count down the days towards graduation, no matter how much senioritis spreads through the halls.

In the words of Andy Bernard of “The Office,” “I wish there was a way to know you’re in the good old days before you’ve actually left them”.