As readers of my blog know, I worked my way through college at the University of California, Berkeley. I generally had to change jobs every semester because my class hours changed. So I had many different jobs over the four years.

Perhaps the most unusual was that of a barista in an espresso house, called Il Piccolo Espresso, close to campus. I got the job because I spoke Italian. I had taught myself both French and Italian as a child. Those were two of the seven languages I ended up using in my work as a signals intelligence specialist working for the National Security Agency (NSA).

These were mid-1950s, before espresso was popular or even known to the general public in the U.S. The customers were almost all Italian immigrants. They were intrigued by my Italian, especially since so much of it was operatic—I was an inveterate opera fan who took the train to San Francisco, just across the bay, every Sunday during the opera season to buy a three-dollar standing room ticket for the matinée.

As it turned out, my time working at Il Piccolo Espresso was valuable training for my later career, that of a linguist in the signals intelligence business. It was also the job I enjoyed most during my college years. Even now, all these years later, I remember those days fondly.

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