Serving Up More than Coffee

Monday morning.

Let’s be honest, no one (  not even your chipper correspondent ) enjoys getting up and going to work on Mondays which is why I love working evenings. However,  Monday morning is even more difficult for the millions of Americans who do not have a job. It’s easy to gripe about having to go work … but at least I have a job.

The priority of the unemployed is different. They are struggling for their very survival and their is a ticking clock – their severance. Talk about deadlines and pressure. I thank the Lord everyday that I am gainfully employed. I know an increasing number of people who are not.

One of them is my friend Richard Citrin. He and I met last year while I was taking a course called Leadership Pittsburgh. Richard is a successful executive who got caught in the numbers game. Now, he is among the growing number of unemployed persons in our region. While we are on the move and have been an example of weathering the recession, western Pennsylvania is still feeling the sting of the economy.

Richard and I reconnected last week and played golf. Obviously the down time has allowed him to get better at this game. He always beat me before. Now, he really beats me. However, during our discussion of his plans to “get back in the game”, Richard forwarded me an article he wrote for the Post-Gazette. A very interesting article.

I will let you read it. It’s entitled Memo From A Panera Booth. In summary, it’s about Richard’s plans to rebound from his layoff. However, during his attempt to set up an office at home, Richard found that being a home was no office. That is where he went to escape work.

Instead, he found a haven … and a new place to connect … at his local Panera Bread store. Now I don’t want to turn this into an advertisement, but I eat at Panera between broadcasts because I like the Chicken Chipolte sandwiches. However, Richard found even better reasons to visit Panera.

For the savvy worker looking to save a few bucks, the free refills and the free Wi-Fi make an enticing combination. It’s one less expense for him. He also discovered that he is not alone. Given the number of Paneras in town, there are many of the newly unemployed who have found refuge at the store … and made connections as well.

The point of all this is that even the most difficult of times professionally, there is creativity. It’s that kind of resourcefulness that will get Richard “back in the game”. It will also allow him create a new place to make contacts that will help him advance his career. Of course, Richard also knows he needs to be out of there by noon … before the working lunchtime crowd arrives and takes over the place.

I wish nothing but the best for Richard – and the rest of those – battling to get back to work. Having lost my job once in my life, I know the feeling it can take emotionally and physically. I know it often identifies who we are and what we are about. I hope this economic downturn ends soon and people are able to get back to work.

That way Panera can be a place where Richard and I can get together … just for fun.

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