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Up at dawn, with coffee on the run

Laurie Rosputni, 39, has driven a coffee truck for Pine Hill Food Service since the late 1990s, when a small coffee cost 85 cents. Today she charges $1.50, and sells six gallons of coffee a day.

With 35 stops a day on her Lancaster route, Rosputni is on the road from 6:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. She prides herself on punctuality and personality, and considers herself a waitress on wheels. Rosputni, a divorced mother of two, is looking forward to summer, when the construction season will make her sales soar.

>People Talk: Tell me about your clientele.

Laurie Rosputni: They're fun. They're like best friends. After so many years you become family with a lot of the people. You see them every day. They get the same thing -- day in and day out. Some people want to converse. Other people just want their stuff and they'll leave. I have people who know my children.

>PT: They never shake their orders up?

LR: They will never change the way they take their coffee, but occasionally they will change what they eat -- if they're on a diet or develop diabetes. Friday is a big biscuit and gravy day. And I'm always running out of doughnuts.

>PT: When they see you, they must know what time it is.

LR: When I first started this job 15 years ago I didn't know how important this truck was to these people. A lot of people can't leave their jobs. It's just a regular part of their day. I have clients who own steel companies, maintenance workers, village employees, mechanics, office women.

>PT: Is dating customers common in the coffee truck business?

LR: Yes it is. A lot of people who I know here have dated, gotten married, had children.

>PT: Are you a flirt?

LR: I think in a way you have to be. You don't have to be provocative. Your personality goes a long way. I would say probably yes, not meaning anything. Let's face it: Guys like the attention. A lot of them don't get it at home. Christmas time they'll bring you gifts. For birthdays, they'll throw you a couple extra bucks.

>PT: How do they know it's your birthday?

LR: Friends at work decorate the trucks so when we open the doors, it's all streamers, and Happy Birthday and balloons. It's an awesome job.

>PT: So you're at a party, and somebody asks you what you do for a living ...

LR: Sometimes people look down at you because they think you have to be trampy to drive a coffee truck. That is the mentality of some people. It's all in how you represent yourself. If you dress and act that way, then that's how you will be treated. You'll get the occasional pig stuff, but that's normal. You get that waitressing. You get that at the store.

>PT: What kind of a driver are you?

LR: I'm a cautious driver, but you have to get to your stops. I don't want to say I'm a speed demon; I just go. You have to be a cautious aggressive driver. I got a speeding ticket once on Aurora Street when I first started. I was going 55.

>PT: What's the downside of your job?

LR: Probably the winter driving. It takes more time to get around. Sometimes we get stuck, but we go rain or shine -- unless the Thruway is closed.

>PT: Has the increase in the cost of gas affected your prices?

LR: It has in the past. It hasn't recently.

>PT: How much is a hard roll these days?

LR: $1.85 buttered.

>PT: What's your longest stop?

LR: Half an hour at the Lancaster [Department of Public Works], but they're usually 2, 3, 5 minutes -- and then you run. We have a lot of time stops, where I have to be somewhere at a certain time. Then I limit conversation.

>PT: How do you deal with rude customers?

LR: You have to remember, you're there for five minutes. If you can not tolerate someone rude or ignorant, then it's not the job for you.

>PT: What is your most valuable tool?

LR: The coffee urn.

>PT: Is there a dress code?

LR: Anything respectable. We cannot wear flip flops, no open-toe shoes. It's a joke, but you have to wear a bra and underwear because there are girls who don't. It's not appropriate.

>PT: Your workplace could be mistaken for Hugh Hefner's garage.

LR: It could. People are overwhelmed by how many attractive women are here, and there's a huge range of ages. They go from 18 to over 50.

>PT: Why aren't there any men drivers?

LR: I honestly don't know. I don't know if a man would want to do this job. I don't see a man wanting to pull up to a construction site and say: "Hey boys, want some coffee?"