If you spend much time on this little blue dot called Earth, and especially if you live somewhere in the vicinity of that cacophonous nation called the United States, then tides and times will likely wash you up onto the shore of the Ferry Building in San Francisco.
My first day to work was also my first ever visit to the building itself, although I had heard of it, even looked it up on maps before moving out West. There was nothing to prepare me for the reality of it, though.
Picture the train station of your imagination, it’s huge, bigger than any building ought to be, and the ceiling is made all of glass, cut through with iron supports. And sunlight falls in and turns everything golden, catching in the dust beams. This is the Ferry Building.
Picture, too, everyone you’ve ever met. They are all there, many times over. I can’t count the number of people, those I’d forgotten, or those I think about every day who I ran into completely unknowingly at Ferry.
Not to mention the vendors. If the Island of Misfit Toys were real, it would be there. These honest, messed up, pantheon of people.
I didn’t know that first day, walking awkwardly through the crowd, that these people would become my best friends, this magical building my home.
The first weeks passed in a haze. Here I was and there I was, inside the building outside the building, learning names and faces and how to brew a cup of coffee. Stepping on toes literally and metaphorically. I can never thank everyone enough for their patience and compassion in teaching me.
Every day walking to work was like diving underwater again, never certain who or what I would see. Whether the woman trying to steal our tip jar for the umpteenth time, two men picking a fight outside the window, or David Beckham and family attempting to slide unseen through the crowd. Some days all three.
But time passed, and I grew as a barista and as a person. My latte art started looking like latte art, and my extraction levels were sometimes deemed adequate. People I respect started commenting, supporting me to look for new ways to grow.
When my manager approached me about going to help start a new cafe, my immediate first response was “no way”. It felt like being asked to move across the country again. Everyone I knew and loved was in the Ferry Building, everything I’d built was there, I felt comfortable, safe, supported. Which, of course, is why I knew I had to say yes. As with all of my life, if it scares me, I probably should do it.
I know I speak for everyone who has ever worked at the Ferry Building when I say it is a unique experience. Working there will stay with me for the rest of my life.
But as with all things, this too, must pass, and it was on to Henry House!