Humanity in a Smoothie || Sydney Johnston

Nutty Banana, Guava Sunrise, Berry Berry, Coconut Passion, Tropical Paradise. 

I clock into the smoothie shop at the same time every day. There’s usually already a line at the register when I walk in. The countertop, home to our three blenders, is splattered with each smoothie ordered during the rush like edible paint. The small cards of recipes taped behind the lip of the counter are hidden from customers, but are our bible when it comes to making their smoothies. I’ve memorized almost all the ingredients by now, comparing the particularity of smoothie making to the procedure a brain surgeon conducts before surgery. 

The smoothies stay the same, but my experiences constantly change. 

The wind chimes tied to the top of the door jingle as it opens. A father and daughter walk up to the register. The little girl wears a basketball uniform with a grin, her father’s arm draped over her shoulders. 

“What ya gonna get champ?” the father asks her. 

The girl shrugs as she studies the four seemingly endless menus of smoothies on the wall. Her excitement seemed to cloud her decision making. 

“I want the Chocolate Champ!” 

“That’s fitting!” the dad says. Turning to me, he says, “She just won her first basketball game. We’re here to celebrate.” 

Across the plexiglass shield hanging between the employee and customer, a woman who seems to be in her fifties practically eats the shield as she hollers her order to my coworker. 

“One large Green Goddess, anything else ma’am?” 

“Yeah, and no more masks! Aha!” The woman aggressively joked. “I can barely hear anything you’re saying with those things on, it’s ridiculous.” 

My coworker gives me a sideways glance, telling me, “Here we go again,” with nothing but her eyes. She politely laughs and finishes ringing her up. 

Choosing to work at a smoothie shop that specializes in workout and protein shakes means you’re signing up for the Karens, “Chad” gym rats, and snob moms that drop in a few times a day. They almost always get the chocolate, banana, and almond milk smoothie called “Low Carb,” and for some reason, they assume that title automatically makes it healthy. However, I’ve come to grow used to these people and no longer get frustrated by their endless mask comments and passive aggressive remarks. Eventually, it becomes amusing and the butt of jokes between my coworkers and me. My boss, Kay, even joins in on the jokes too. 

“If I wanted a water bottle, I’d grab one. Now would you give me a cup of ice water PLEASE?” she says, mimicking a rude lady from the day before. 

We laughed and continued cleaning. 

“Do you have a baseball glove?” a forty-something-year-old father asks his sixteen-or-so-year-old son. 

The teenager shook his head as I handed him his PB&J smoothie. The two guys sat at a table exchanging awkward glances, as it seemed like neither of them knew what to say to each other. 

The father had just gotten out of prison, and this is the first time they’ve been together since his conviction. 

“This is a really good smoothie,” the dad says to the son. 

“Yeah, peanut butter is my favorite.” 

“Mine too.” 

As the initial awkwardness wore off, they shared smiles in between sips. 

Sometimes  my older customers find it therapeutic to talk about their day to the girl at the smoothie shop. And I am so happy to be able to lend a listening ear. 

I know the old lady with the red glasses orders the Orange Twister with extra banana because her husband’s favorite fruit was banana. 

The mother with the screaming toddler orders the Blueberry Blast because someway, somehow, she stops crying the instant she takes a sip. 

The young couple that comes in every Sunday morning order the Peanut Passion, saying it at the exact same time smiling and shaking their heads like they tried to beat the other to it first. 

And the sixty-year-old man who orders the Island Breeze tries to come into the shop every other month to tell his same joke to someone new. 

“I’d like a double bacon cheeseburger with fries and extra ketchup.” 

I laugh and act like I’ve never heard that one before even though I take his order every time. 

“Here’s your bacon cheeseburger,” I say, placing his smoothie on the pickup counter. 

When I was little and I got good grades on a report card, or completed a big project, or won a sports game, my parents would take me out as a treat for my achievement. I would usually pick something sweet to enjoy, like most children do, and feel appreciated by the pride my parents took in me. To this day, my reward system revolves around a sweet treat from a favorite coffee, tea, or smoothie place. Before I got this job, this smoothie shop was one of the places I would go when I completed something I felt deserved a reward. Now, my reward is crafting and blending other people’s rewards. 

One girl comes into the shop every Monday after school. She almost never orders a smoothie off the menu. She orders a banana smoothie with kiwi and pineapple, even though the Tropical Paradise is banana, kiwi and pineapple. I let her have her moment. The second she leaves the store with her smoothie, I see her jump around the parking lot dancing to no music. Singing into her smoothie microphone like nobody is watching. 

At this smoothie shop, I am nobody and somebody all at the same time.

Sydney Johnston is a student in the process of getting a bachelor’s in Media Studies and minoring in Creative Writing. In her free time, she loves to watch movies and one day hopes to become a screenwriter, creating movies and TV shows that others can fall in love with as much as she loves writing them.

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