Back in the day, when drug stores occupied the neighborhood corners, as staples of the landscape and the need of the community, there was a job vacancy known as the Soda Jerk. Not so much that the neighbor’s kid applying was a jerk, but more like they would need a strong arm to jerk the soda machine, you see! It was the landscape that Edward Hopper painted about, the neighborhood that we came to know as home.
The Corner Drug Store was indeed a diner as well, where you could meet up with friends, or go for a bit of solitude when reading the Sunday paper you just bought, sound familiar? If so, you probably have caught on to my catchy title. Really many things could be said, but the importance of coffee in our society, has replaced the Soda Jerk with The Barista! When was an egg cream replaced by a capuccino mocha? I don’t know, but it’s worth finding out. How did our needs change so drastically? Wasn’t coffee considered something to drink at meetings, business conferences, other serious stuff, and not much fun! After all, the soda jerk was not only responsible for jerking the soda arm to pour the fountain drink, he (I’ve never seen a woman soda jerk) was to make it look like fun, creating a show in the process. People went to the counter to get an Italian Soda, but also to see a show! And if Hopper didn’t do it for you, check out Norman Rockwell‘s rendition in the Saturday Evening Post!
Rockwell even got the dog, and it seems mesmerized too. Admiration! The Soda Jerk had admiration, meaning he probably had to work his way up, to that coveted position of ample clout. Lets remember that the soda machine itself represented uncharted territories, it was new, and few had seen drinks being made this way before. Importantly, the soda machine was to embody what our Nation represented; a forward thinking, innovative place, where we could all flourish (and enjoy it)! There was comfort, in knowing we could be home, and be excited about it because we could expect the best there.
Let’s come all the way to todays Coffee Shops. Obviously, the Corner Drug store had to separate its services. New laws, stipulations, and mandatory guidelines required different, and changing roles of the once corner (and counter) hang out. Our neighborhoods were changing too. Moms went to work, kids went to day care, Grandma and Grandpa became nudists (they even joined a colony)! With the movement of society into the “me” individualistic age, the need to socialize at a level of conformity became obselete. Jane didn’t want to run, and Jack had to climb his own hills (all by himself). Jill was getting a mani & pedi!
That had to be it, the change in our habits to more individualized focus! The “I’m ok, You’re ok” mindset had prevailed, created out of a need to grow.
Poor Soda Jerk! Gone just like that! Out of a job! Never to look back seeing the same landscape, in their own heighborhood. Ouch, that hurt! With time, all things must change, and change they did, sort of!
Today we have a Happy Barista, a throw back to the days of behind the counter services, but autonomously individualisticly pouring great coffee, with a flair. Once again, can we confine ourselves to our neighborhood cafes, mingling with neighbors, and friends.
The role of The Barista has become one of not “just” service but one that provides knowledge about coffee; becoming a professional in his/her own realm of creativity as well. With an apron tied around, one can’t help but feel that this is serious business, enjoyment is inevitable when you taste the finely brewed cup (or glass) of perhaps flavor infused cafe! Enjoying as many varieties as possible, everyday is a new discovery; whether your everyday cup of joe is
organic, blended, cappuccino, espresso, or maybe even tea! There is also a show of sorts, a pretty one. Oh yes, pretty! Coffee is pretty, when out of the froth pictures are created!
There is the wi-fi service which keep you connected, conferencing, or tweeting (actually you could do all at the same time), while reading the paper you just got emailed. Good thing is, you can stay as long as you want, maybe things haven’t changed that much!
Images Courtesy of : Bing Images (LarryFresch, Hospitality Connections, Miss Wangy /Underground)
- Anti-soda jerks rule Cambridge (bostonherald.com)
- Business Lessons from a Soda Jerk (brandautopsy.typepad.com)
- The Soda Jerks (peopleofwalmart.com)
- New York mayor to ban super-size sodas (vancouversun.com)
- Never stop marketing, even at the Starbucks coffee counter (thehumanracehorses.com)