Thursday, February 28, 2013

Make demands of your intelligence

I was reading an article called "The Most Human Human" about a man who set out to win that award at the annual Loebner prize contest (which is a Turing test). I was struck by this passage:

One of my best friends was a barista in high school. Over the course of a day, she would make countless subtle adjustments to the espresso being made, to account for everything from the freshness of the beans to the temperature of the machine to the baronmetric pressure's effect on the steam volume, meanwhile manipulating the machine with an octopus's dexterity and bantering with all manner of customers on whatever topics came up. Then she went to college and landed her first "real" job: rigidly procedureal data entry. She thought back longingly to her barista days--when her job actually made demands of her intelligence.

It is interesting that many of what we as a society consider "real" jobs aren't intellectually stimulating in any way. Of course, many high-school jobs don't either (my high-school job at a grocery store certainly didn't, except being able to remember where stuff was in the store, which is actually a hindrance now since I expect every grocery store to have a similar organization and they most certainly don't). But there are many jobs that I think we're societally programmed to look down upon, barista would certainly qualify, that do require more humanity than many "good" white-collar, soul-crushing jobs.

I don't know much about baristas, but I think the comparison works pretty well for bartenders (I'm in bars a lot more often than I'm in cafes). Different kegs have different carbonation levels, and pouring a foamy one is different than pouring a flat one. I have a kegerator and lately have been getting Lagunitas kegs, which tend to be hilariously overcarbed. I was on my third keg before I figured out how to get a good pour consistently. And that's not factoring in style differences, which beers deserve a big fluffy head and which just want a ring of bubbles around the edge, and how to execute that given that particular keg's behavior.

Additionally, knowing how to match up what someone wants with what you have (at least in a good craft beer bar, this obviously doesn't work at a dive bar that has Bud Lite and PBR on tap) can be extremely complicated. I know a lot about beer and am pretty sure I would be terrible at that. And I'm sure that, having never done this professionally, there are many things I'm missing.

Anyway, just a line of thought that I found interesting, I don't really have any grander points.