The secret life of a campus barista

Working at the campus Starbucks comes with its fair share of perils, like explosive flaming cookies.

Earlier this week, Haley Hermach was preparing a cookie for a customer. A mere 6 seconds after she placed the pastry in the oven, she opened the door to find the paper aflame. She attempted to douse it with tongs without success. The cookie exploded, and a significant chunk landed on Hermach’s exposed hand. After staring in shock, she flung it back into the oven. She received first aid from a fellow employee, finished her shift, and went to class.

While the vast majority of customers present no problems, baristas at the campus Starbucks face all sorts of uncomfortable situations: flaming cookies, being misgendered and working with very impatient students.

“[Rude customers] are so few and far between [that] it’s not that bad. It’s usually something we laugh about…We don’t really get upset about it,” said Hermach.

Hermach, a sophomore INDS major studying earth and space science, works as a supervisor despite being the youngest staff member in the entire University Center. Hermach works 40-45 hours per work while taking classes as a full-time student.

Not all of the Starbucks employees are students, however. Baristas Coriander Canterbury, 21, and Miranda Feazell, 22, have known each other since attending middle school together in Fort Meade. Canterbury previously took classes at UMBC, but started working full-time in August. Feazell applied for a full-time position from outside the University and has been working since June.  The two are engaged to be married and have lived together in Catonsville for three years.

They do not have specific plans for the wedding, though Feazell has purchased their dress. Canterbury, however, is still in pursuit of a tuxedo. “There’s talk of closing Starbucks for the day, because everyone wants to go,” said Hermach.

Employees also expressed regret over confusion regarding their gender identity: “I’m agender. I have they/them pronouns. People refer to me as ma’am,” Feazell said.  “It just makes me sad because there’s a lot of people that don’t understand they/them pronouns.”

It’s not just the pronouns, though: Some coffee-drinkers are just plain unappreciative. Employees described a situation in which a customer became frustrated as Canterbury struggled to hear their order. Once he finally figured it out, he wrote the wrong name on the cup after hearing him wrong. The customer said, “No. You know what? I don’t have time for you.” He left immediately.

Of course, the good balances out the bad.

“Some people that come in that are really stressed avoid looking at us or talking to us, after a while of coming here, we become familiar, they’re actually open up to us,” said Feazell. “They’ll be more friendly and they’ll actually converse with us and they’ll feel connected to us. It’s nice to have that connection.”