I worked in an airport cafe for two weeks and here’s what I learned…

Last August, after struggling to find a job all summer, I finally got a barista job at a small airport near my university. I had previously been a barista at a cafe in my hometown and I loved making coffee drinks and meeting interesting people. I had hoped working in an airport would lead to even more run-ins with people traveling through, but instead, I got a few life lessons on the reality of how raw people become when they are faced with the stress of flying.

  1. Travelers can be vicious/Don’t direct anger towards service people.
    Just think about it; You arrive for your flight after leaving the comfort of your home. You get to the airport with your heavy bag and then have to wait through a really long line just to get your ticket and check your bag. You find out your flight has been delayed or that your bag was too heavy and you either had to take stuff out or pay extra to keep it all with you. All this anger starts bubbling up, and instead of keeping it inside, you decide to get angry at the person serving you food and drinks. Travel problems can bring out the worst in people, and unfortunately, a lot of people still treat anyone behind a register or serving them as the lowest rank of human, which isn’t fair, but it happens. But don’t do this. The people getting paid to deal with your unpleasantness don’t need your anger to add to their already stressful day. Get mad at the people running the airport, or anyone else other than the people behind the counter just trying to feed you.
  2. Assuming everyone knows what you’re saying/Use local jargon.
    Many Canadians came through the airport I worked at, because Bellingham is right near the border. Canadians get a bad rap for “being rude,” but there’s rude people of every nationality*. It making complicated change from Canadian currency that bothered me, or maybe even that “rude” nature that Americans like to complain about, but the jargon used by some that got frustrating. In Canada, a “double double,” means a drip coffee with two sugar and two creamer packets. Before that job, I had never heard of that before, so when I got a barrage of people asking for that drink, I ended up looking like the stupid one, because we don’t call it that in America. The customers looked at me like I was an idiot for not knowing. My solution to this (other than learning some Canadian words quickly to avoid more insults), is that if you are abroad, especially in an airport, where there is a menu board to look at, please order from there and use the local words for the drink you like, rather than being rude when a server doesn’t understand what you mean.
  3. Knowledgeable travel guide/Go to an info desk.
    I am not a map of Bellingham. I didn’t take the cab driver test you have to take to do to drive a taxi and know exactly where everything is. By asking a server exactly where a hotel is, or treating them like a travel guide, you’re, again, putting them into this situation of dealing with you in a way they weren’t prepared for, and in turn, makes them look idiotic for not knowing the street the nearest Best Western is on. In a lot of cases, the people who work at an airport, don’t even necessarily live in the area they are working, and can’t name off a bunch of tourist attractions without sounding repetitive when naming off the big ones. Service people are not your unofficial travel guide, they are minimum wage workers who will get crappy tips (because most foreigners don’t tip) and won’t know how to direct you to an area. You can’t expect them to memorize a map or list of brunch places just to please you. Most airports have an area with a bunch of brochures or even a desk with someone to help you with navigating around town, but using a barista as a guide who actually can’t help you is yet another traveler thing that’s so entitled.

In the end, I only ended up working there for two weeks because I went through a breakup and needed to get out of Bellingham and moved to Los Angeles. I am glad I got to see the reality of working in an airport, and even was turned on to a show called “Come Fly with Me,” which is a BBC sketch comedy, showing the ins and outs of airport life. Two weeks was enough for me though, and the moral of this story is to just always be kind to service workers! Be courteous and respectful as a traveler and never treat anyone (especially workers) as if they’re below you. Traveling is stressful, but a positive attitude and adaptable spirit will make you a good explorer.

*I swear I have NOTHING against Canadians! Bellingham just happens to be full of them though because we are 20 minutes from the border and a hour from Vancouver.


One thought on “I worked in an airport cafe for two weeks and here’s what I learned…

  1. I totally agree with what you wrote! Working counter service at a mall once, I even got harassed about the state’s sale tax, and I was a new resident to that state and probably too young to have voted for the politicians who determined it even if I had been living there for years.

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