Smile Politely

Uniforms: Finn Cronenberg

Meet Finn. She’s worked at libraries, coffee shops, restaurants, and at home taking care of her kid. And she’s currently slinging coffee in Urbana at Flying Machine Coffee (FMC). Our photographer Veronica Mullen went and took some sweet photos of her doing her thing and we asked her some questions about her job and her uniform. Check it out below. 

Smile Politely: What is your job, position, and length of employment?

Finn Cronenberg: I’m a barista, and I’ve been at Flying Machine Coffee for about seven months.

SP: What other jobs have you done in the past?

Cronenberg: I’m also a barista at Cafe Kopi; I’ve been there for a bit over a year. Before coming back to coffee, I worked (a.k.a. hung out and watched Tales from the Crypt) at That’s Rentertainment for several years. I’ve worked making coffee, shelving books at a public library, organizing and selling textbooks in a bookstore on campus, and serving in restaurants. I was also a stay-at-home mom for a couple of years.

SP: Do you have a uniform or something you wear every day to work? What is it?

Cronenberg: The dress code for FMC is pretty lax — nothing vulgar, make sure your bits are covered, and make sure you’re in compliance with health code. My closet looks pretty much like a cartoon character’s, though: ten of the same thing, nearly all black. The counters are tall here and I’m not, so I wear tall boots most days.

SP: What are your duties at work?

Cronenberg: The most important of them is customer service — it doesn’t matter how good a drink you can make if you’re a jerk to the person who ordered it. As you may have guessed, being a very glamorous job: I make coffee and coffee drinks, wash dishes, tell jokes, and make sure there’s plenty of toilet paper in the bathrooms.

SP: How long are your shifts? How many hours a week do you work?

Cronenberg: They’re 5-7 hour shifts, depending on the day. Between my two jobs, I work a little more than 40 hours a week.

SP: How would you describe the job market for your position in C-U?

Cronenberg: It depends on how you look at it, I guess. If you want a job as a barista, it’s pretty easy to get hired at Starbucks or any other chain. Smaller, locally-owned cafés tend to have employees that stick around for a while, so they don’t hire as frequently. I spent the better part of a year pestering Josh (Lucas, the owner) about vacancies at FMC before a spot opened up for me.

SP: What did you want to be when you grew up?

Cronenberg: I’m sure I wanted to be all kinds of things at one point or another — witch, vet, teacher, archaeologist, librarian, werewolf, cartoonist, whatever. I definitely wanted to grow up and get a bunch of tattoos, so I guess I managed to do that even if I never became a werewolf.

SP: What is the best part of your job? The worst?

Cronenberg: The people — for both. If you’ve ever worked in customer service, you know that one especially rude or unkind customer can be all it takes to ruin your day. Or sometimes it isn’t even a rude customer, just a string of people who treat you like some kinda coffee-dispensing robot instead of like an actual human being providing a service.

So, there’s that — but at the same time, I feel incredibly fortunate to have a job where I get to interact with so many genuinely nice and lovely people! I love having regular customers who I see nearly every day — I like being able to greet them by name and have them do the same, and I like to get to know people beyond just “how are you, large coffee please.” The great thing about working in a coffee shop is that people almost always leave happier than they came in, and it’s nice to feel like you brightened so many people’s days (even if you know it’s mostly the caffeine doing the brightening).

SP: What are some misconceptions about your job?

Cronenberg: Biggest misconception — that it’s unskilled labor. It’s a lot of work, and it takes a lot of practice and concentration! You have to know and abide by health code regulations, multitask literally constantly, remember strings of complex drink orders, know how to pull delicious tasting and, looking shots, how to troubleshoot when your shots are not delicious or beautiful, how to service and adjust the machines, the ins and outs of milk steaming and latte art, and on and on. It’s a lot to learn, and there’s a lot to mess up if you’re not careful! It only looks easy because we know what we’re doing.

SP: What do you want everyone to know about your job?

Cronenberg: This isn’t exclusive to my job, although it is obviously relevant: tips are important! Tip your bartender, tip your server, tip your barista, tip anyone providing any kind of service to you if they look like they’re allowed to accept tips — heck, bake cookies for the mailman during the holidays while you’re at it. Tip everyone! The change you throw in the tip jar — regardless of what business it’s in — is helping someone to buy groceries or pay for their kid’s daycare.

On a lighter note, I also really want everyone to know that skim milk is NOT better for you than whole milk. Milk fat is good! Fat-free dairy products are just loaded up with corn syrup instead. Corn syrup is worse for you than milk fat. Just drink milk if you’re gonna drink milk, or use a milk alternative if you don’t want cow’s milk, but please don’t water down perfectly good milk and add corn syrup to it. I hate skim milk.

Photos by Veronica Mullen, see more of her work at

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