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Count Down

Posted on Tuesday 2nd October 2007 at 00:00
Every morning at around 08:55, I drive my car up the curb and onto the pavement, in order to drive around the barrier at the entrance to Car Park 6 on the Frenchay Campus of the University of the West of England. What follows is a brief account of the first hour or so of my working day, as I like it to pan out:

08:55 & 65 minutes to opening (MTO) - Car Park 6 is about as small as a car park can be without becoming a lay by, bay or road with the double yellow lines removed. There are perhaps 20 bays in total, and one area by a hedge which isn't marked as a bay but is sufficient in size to allow the desperate motorist to park there without upsetting anyone. Having failed to find a bay I will manoeuvre my vehicle into this space, just as a colleague pulls up behind me and attempts to do the same. On occasion The Boss will shout instructions from an upstairs window so that we can both fit in without running the risk of being towed away.

09:00 & 60 MTO - I arrive in the kitchen and deposit my bag in the changing room. Next I proceed to rant and rave about the awful parking/traffic/something I heard on the radio that morning to anyone who'll listen, whilst simultaneously greeting everyone in the room, finding out how they are and enquiring about their weekend/evening out/bad back. Conversations at work can prove confusing to the casual observer.

09:05 & 55 MTO - I go round the room once more to enquire who would like a caffeinated beverage of one kind or another and how they take it, before wrestling with the trolley laden with equipment to be taken to the bar, so that it is persuaded to travel in that general direction. This usually involves ricocheting off of other trolleys, tables, walls and people until we reach the door to the bar.

09:10 & 50 MTO - Making coffee in the morning is the best way of ensuring that all the necessary equipment is present and correct, and that nothing has broken since the previous day. The basic list usually looks something like this:
  • 3 filter basket arms for the espresso machine. These are the strange handle things that get removed from the machine and banged over bins before your coffee is made. We have three at work, two double shot and one single shot;

  • 3 inner filters for the filter baskets. These are basically small metal bowls with holes in that hold the shot of ground coffee whilst water passes through it and into your cup;

  • A large metal jug for frothing milk. This comes complete with a thermometer and what can best be described as a small, flat-bladed spatula used for alternately scooping the froth off the milk and holding it back whilst pouring;

  • An assortment of cups and saucers, mugs and teaspoons;

  • A pot and filter tray for the filter coffee machine;

  • The special box into which spent coffee is deposited.


  • 09:20 & 40 MTO - Coffee is distributed to those who requested it. I always have a latte in a mug, where as the others usually have sachets of instant coffee, the filter machine being switched off at this stage. At this point The Boss or another supervisor is opening the tills and counting the float.

    09:25 & 35 MTO - Even when care is taken, coffee granules tend to get trodden into the floor of the bar throughout the day, so this is the point at which I sweep and then mop the floor. Whilst I'm doing this, I've set the espresso machine to perform a maintenance task known as 'back washing.? This involves blocking up the filter baskets so that the water that is normally forced out through the coffee is made to cycle back through the machine and clean it out. I also switch on the glass washer so that it has time to warm up.

    09:35 & 25 MTO - Next the fruit bowl. This must be filled with a selection of fresh fruit that will sit on the bar all day and largely be ignored by the majority of customers. At the same time crisps must be acquired to fill the basket that sits next to the fruit bowl. When this has been completed the specials board needs to be wiped clean, as do any tables that have been used by the 'cleaners? in the night.

    09:40 & 20 MTO - Time to stock the fridges behind the bar with all the bottles of beer, water, fruit juice and coke sold on the bar. Whilst I'm making out my list I'll also be removing the nozzles for the draught coke machine from the soda water they are stored in at night and reattaching them to the machine for use. The bottles are all stored in one cellar and a single trolley is usually enough for a day's worth of stock. Whilst there I will also grab as many cartons of fresh orange juice as I require and a dozen or more pints of milk. Once back in the bar everything must go into the fridges as quickly as possible.

    9:50 & 10 MTO - On with the filter coffee, which will take around 10 minutes to drip through into the pot. Whilst it is going I'll fill up half a dozen glass jugs with the orange juice from the cartons.

    9:55 & 5 MTO - I switch on the stereo behind the bar and set it to playing the first of five CDs that have been on repeat quietly in the background since last Christmas. As the first track - California Dreamin? - begins to play, I raise the bar shutters and remove the post between them. I switch the lights on in the restaurant and spend a minute or two checking that everything is ready, and that the water jug is filled with a fresh supply of cold water.

    10:00 & 0 MTO - I march importantly to the main door and unlock it, bracing myself as I do to deal with the rush of early morning customers all desperate to come in for their morning coffees.

    There aren't any of course. I've never once unlocked that door in the morning and found people waiting to come in. Two reasons for this: firstly it is a busy university and people just don't have time to stand around waiting, and secondly there is a coffee shop less than a minute's walk away which opens at 8.

    Over the next couple of hours there will be a slow trickle of regulars. On a good day we might see as many as 20 sales by 12:00, but it is usually closer to a dozen.

    We refer to this as the calm before the storm....

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