BY LORI BONA HUNT
How does that song from Cheers go again? “Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name, and they're always glad you came . . .”
No matter how the rest of the lyrics go, there is something about going to such a place, even if it's just for a cup of coffee.
We have one right on campus — the Williams coffee counter in the University Centre.
Brenda Hearn and Roxann Resch have been working there for 8½ and seven years, respectively, and have been on the morning shift together most of that time.
They have the “I'll pour, you serve” system down to a T, which is why the place runs like clockwork even when it's busy and the lineup extends past the display case of salads, muffins and pastries.
Both women also make a point of finding out — and remembering — their customers' names, as well as little details such as how people take their coffee and if they prefer to use their own cup. It's no small feat, considering they serve hundreds upon hundreds of cups of coffee a week.
But to them, it's just part of the job — the fun part.
“People really like it when they walk up to the counter and you just hand them what they like,” says Hearn. Adds Resch: “It's like how it was for Norm on Cheers; people come in, we know them and we know what they want.”
In fact, customers have been known to ask the duo about the likes and dislikes of their other customers. “Someone will say: ‘I'm getting coffee today for Barbara — do you know what she takes?'” says Hearn. “Again, it's that personal touch. People like that.”
Both she and Resch say the social side of the job is what's kept them here for so long.
“It's what makes it fun — getting to know people, finding out about their lives,” says Hearn. “I just found out yesterday that one of my customers likes to sleep on the floor. I said: ‘What are you, nuts?'”
With a laugh, Resch adds: “OK, maybe that was too personal; some things you just don't want to know.” On a more serious note, she adds: “When you're home all day with kids, there comes a time when you want and need some adult conversation. It keeps you sane.”
So they talk to the customers — ask their names, where they work, what they do. Eventually, they seem to be serving coffee mostly to friends.
“It's wonderful,” says Hearn. “For the most part, people treat us like colleagues, like anyone else.”
Both women were delighted when president Alastair Summerlee — a longtime regular — invited them to his installation dinner. “It was absolutely fabulous,” says Hearn.
They also develop a rapport with the students. “They tell us about their exams, how much homework they have,” says Resch. Adds Hearn: “I think it's that motherly image thing. They come up and want to talk about their day.”
Like any job, there are, of course, some downsides. It can be a busy place, especially during morning and afternoon “coffee hour” and during special events and conferences. “It does get stressful when there's a lineup,” Hearn says.
Then there are the grumpy customers, the ones who never talk or smile. But both women agree that the worst part of the job is the dirty coffee cups.
“Some people like to use their own cups, which is great,” says Hearn. But every so often, someone gives them a cup that's still half full of “some strange-looking stuff” or one that has a thick buildup inside. “You want to take them and throw them away.”
Hearn and Resch ended up working at U of G through — what else — a personal connection. Both had spent several years at home caring for their children and met while playing in the same volleyball league. They still play in that league and also joined a golf league together three years ago. Resch's children are now 15, 14 and 9; Hearn's are 33, 23 and 20, and the middle daughter will graduate from U of G this spring.
When they met, Hearn was working on campus. When she heard Resch was looking for part-time work, she suggested giving U of G a try. “We've been here together ever since — and we're still friends,” says Hearn.
Cheers to that.
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