I work at a local coffee shop on a manual espresso machine( not quite as manual as a lever machine but I do not just push a button and let the machine do the work) as well as with a manual grinder. I make drinks non-stop for 8-10 hours a day and have competed in national-level competitions twice. I am proficient in latte art and the production of drinks that make you wish you didn’t finish that last sip. I understand the different subtleties between coffee origins and the different processes of coffee brewing. I have developed an understanding of the importance of coffee and the culture that surrounds it as well as it’s impact on society…I know coffee.
I would say half of the people that come in are nice enough, a quarter of them really appreciate coffee, ten percent really appreciate the experience (both the barista and the coffee), and the last 15 percent are a nightmare to serve. I agree with the OP in some respects about the “nightmare few” customer mentality. All they care about is their perfect drink, perfectly suited to their perfect standards, made in their ideal of a perfect time frame. They have no regard for the human element. This can be expected dealing with a crowd that will gladly pay 4-5 dollars for a drink. It’s almost depressing to think that ONE drink is worth 30 minutes of my time, (Making 8-9 dollars an hour). One beverage, tasty and energy-giving, costs as much as 30 minutes of my labor. Most people understand this, some don’t.
I do not feel that my job is below me, I consider being a Barista to be a great career….respectable but is often without respect. Maybe it’s human nature to treat someone that is serving you something as a servant…after all, we ARE serving you, but as in my case… it is not that I am a button-pushing autobot. Being a Barista is my trade and my art, and I think more respect is due.