Christmas and Coffee Shops

Years ago, the coffee shop I worked at in downtown Annapolis flooded during a hurricane and was shut down for some time. All of the employees were displaced and given hours at other stores, but I was a salaried assistant manager and none of the local stores could afford another salaried employee, so they sent me to a high volume store about forty five minutes away from where I lived. I knew it was temporary and I viewed it as an opportunity for new experiences, an adventure if you will.

Understanding my situation and knowing that I would have to travel halfway around the Washington DC beltway to get to work everyday, the store manager worked around my schedule as best he could. We agreed that the best shifts for me to work would either be opening or closing shifts because these would allow me to miss the worst of the traffic. I have always been more of a morning person than a late night person, so I often worked the morning shifts which meant leaving my house at about 4am to have the store open by 5am, but I was used to it.

My tenure at this store lasted longer than any of us expected and I started to feel at home where I was. The holiday season was approaching and, historically, the company I worked for closed all stores for Christmas Day. This year, however, the economy was struggling and some managers volunteered to keep their stores open to help make budget. It was announced that one store in each district would be open, but the stores would be staffed on a volunteer-only basis.

As I tend to, I resisted the idea and spoke out against it, explaining that this was the one day of the year that people were guaranteed to not have to work. Besides, I explained, it was Christmas. My manager kindly reiterated to me the that this was ‘volunteer-only’ and then explained that he had no family in the area to spend Christmas with, so he did not mind working, especially if it helped him to reach his numbers and receive his bonus. Furthermore, some people needed or wanted the holiday pay. Lastly, he politely pointed out that, unlike the store I came from, almost every single employee at this store was either Jewish or Muslim and did not place the same value on the Christmas holiday as I did. Often, we do not realize how culturally tunnel-visioned we become, which is why traveling, even to a new coffee shop 45 minutes away, can be an expansive experience.

 Robert Van Valkenburgh is co-founder of Kogen Dojo where he teaches Taikyoku Budo and Gracie Jiu-Jitsu

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