friendly brickell barista is delusional

I’m friendly with a barista named Leo who’s a really cool guy, very friendly and easy to talk to and he’s also very charmingly serious about providing good service and making sure that your latte or breakfast sandwich came out exactly as you wanted it; but Leo, despite being very much the sorta person with whom you can have comfy passive chit-chat at 6:30 in the morning, is also fulla shit— which isn’t to say that he lies about things. It’s clear that he absolutely believes everything he’s saying. But he’s constantly talking shit about, “Someday I’m Gonna”; he talks and talks and spins these webs about businesses he’s gonna start, how easy it’s gonna be to attract investors and cultivate a customer base and score a profit. He talks with shrugging self-certainty about how he plans to retire at thirty-five.

“And do what?”

He shrugs. “Just chill.”

“For seventy years?”

He chuckles, emotes with his shoulders.

Ask him where he’s gonna get the money to retire comfortably at thirty-five and he clicks his tongue and pops his shoulder and says, “Bro, it’s nothing…” and then he’ll talk some shit about how he doesn’t understand how so many people haven’t figured out a way to line up five or six sources of passive income so that they don’t have to work some dogged 9-to-5….

Just shit, stupid shit.

But he’s a sweet guy.

I’ve actually had a beer with him at Redbar.

The place where he works has a monthly “cleaning party” where everybody sticks around really late and cleans the shit out of the whole coffee shop. Knee-pads, pressure cleaners, toothbrushes over tile–it’s a deep clean. And so he came staggering into Redbar late at night after one of those “cleaning parties” and I saw him go pretty much limp on a stool and I came up and sat with him and we talked.

Barista Busy at Work, Kanag Janakan

But so I’m there at the coffee shop a couple days ago, I take a seat at the counter so we can talk while he’s preparing drinks, and he asks me what I did yesterday–he asks about “yesterday” specifically, which he’s never done before, and of course it turns out he doesn’t really give a shit, cuz I tell him about getting nominated for the Local Blogger thing and then making the semi-finals and he listens to the whole quick thing with a few nods, no interruptive remarks and a casual amount of eye contact, and then as soon as I’m done, finishing the story with a shrug, he says, “Yeah no, I started a business yesterday.”

“OK, Leo.”

He goes on to tell me that he’s getting the LLC in order, it’s gonna take like two weeks before the business is recognized, and then, once it’s officially recognized, he’s gonna start buying cheap properties in Allapattah, in Jacksonville and maybe even some mid-Florida obscurities like Yeehaw Junction (which is a real place in FL whose Wikipedia page says, in the first sentence of its History section: “Some say the community’s name comes from the fact locals would yell ‘Yeehaw!'”), and then, after buying and restoring them, he’ll just rent the places out and live on the income that’ll be pouring in from so many directions.

But he allows that it’s not gonna be so easy. He’s gotta wait for the business to become a proper LLC before he can get insurance for the properties. Also, he’s gonna take out a $100,000 loan so that he can buy up this or that four-bedroom unit someplace in the middle of Atlantis FL and rent it out to the Monopoly Man.

I said, “You’re just gonna go get a loan for a hundred grand?”

He shrugs and gives me smirk that’s so confident it’s almost pitying my naivete and he says, “Yeah, bro. I got good credit.”

“You’re 23.”

“So?”

“You’re a 23-year-old barista, dude, why would they give you a hundred thousand dollars to go buy a dilapidated farmhouse in Yeehaw fucking Junction?”

“There are townhouses in Overtown right now, they’re all beat up and whatever, they’re in the middle of like a one-acre property and just getting overgrown with weeds. You think somebody can’t go up and buy that shit?”

“You’re gonna be the guy to go and buy this hypothetical townhouse and fix it up?”

“Hell yeah. Shit’s gonna get gentrified as fuck in a few years. I’ll fix it up, rent it out,” he gestures at the ceiling with his tongs, “flip that shit for ten times what I paid.”

He’s got all these grand plans, he acts like everything is figured out—“Now I just gotta wait for this red tape to clear and I’m set.”

The red tape that’s keeping things tied up is that he’s waiting for the LLC to be approved.

But after that, he’s gonna have to wait for the loan.

And after the loan he’s gonna have to wait for certain properties to hit the market.

And after that he’s gonna have to wait for another thing, and another thing.

I’ve had lotsa friends weave these kinds of stories where they describe themselves as being on the cusp of some enormous success—and then they say that there’s just this one little issue that’s outta their hands and they’ve gotta wait on it. Bureaucratic shit. Permits and whatever.

It bothers me for two reasons.

  1. It’s a way for them to gloss some imaginary coolness and self-certainty over the fact that they aren’t, at this moment, doing anything to actively improve their situation. They’re just talking about it, as if the fact that they’ve come up with the idea is 90% of the recipe for success.
  2. Leo is 23 years old. He’s got that fire in the belly and he’s still telling these bullshit stories with a boyish enthusiasm that’s kinda charming because you get the sense that life hasn’t happened to him yet, and that these idealistic lenses through which he’s looking at the world are about to be irreparably cracked by a succession of crushingly formative failures. But I’ve got friends who are my age and a little older who weave these exact same kindsa stories when we’re sitting at bars and it just starts to sound tragic, self-deluding. Because at this point they’re old enough to know, by looking at the facts of their life and of the lives around them, that the world doesn’t work this way. They talk about businesses they’re gonna start, projects on which they’re a few weeks from embarking, and how—as Kevin Smith says about Hollywood—it’s just gonna be pussy and donuts once their project hits the road.

I hate getting so worked up about it because then I hear myself being the dude who’s shitting on people’s dreams, telling them that everything is way more complicated than they’re describing; even when I don’t exactly know the field, like with real estate or flipping houses, it just doesn’t make sense that a 23-year-old barista is spelling out the three easy steps to becoming a millionaire.

And I hate the sound of my voice being that guy, cuz what’s the benefit of discouraging him? It’s not like I can spell out for him the way in which he’s got this or that fact mixed up, but I know it must be infinitely harder than what he’s describing. And there’s no communicating that to him. He’s convinced that he’s gonna do it all just like he says and, I don’t know what’s wrong with me, I just have such a problem watching him recline across his delusions. I get senselessly argumentative.

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