This morning, Chris and I enjoyed something rather new in our wonderful world of wedded bliss – we went for coffee.
When I first met Chris, he was the anti-coffee. Our two worlds, though mostly in sync, collided in a most uncaffeinated way. To him, my coffee needs were fickle. To me, his coffee hatred was despicable. For years, I tried to convince him of the virtues of coffee. Realizing the work ahead of me, I took the quiet, subtle approach on this one. Rather than force the cup under his nose day after day, I casually slipped in my coffee trickery from time to time. And though he’d enjoy a cup of coffee after a hard workout or an occasional decaf, it just wasn’t the same as having someone fully leaded and ready to hop on my wired wagon to ride off into a sunset of liquid brown Sumatra.
Coffee is quite literally the lifeline of my daily grind and I couldn’t be more happily addicted to its potent and perky properties. Sure, there have been times when I’ve thought about giving it up. Times when I feared it was staining my teeth, lining my liver with oils, and giving me the java jitters. But the powerfully addictive pull of coffee is no match for these fears. Like undertow in an angry ocean, it will not easily release you from its hold. Coffee has an insidious way of instantly drawing you in, tempting you like a siren at sea to sip and savor your way into its sneakily addictive and tenuous trap. It tricks you with sugar and cream, it’s milky froth and syrupy sweetness all merely disguises to distract you away from the plain and simple fact that it is coffee and it is indeed a drug.
Oh, you think you can stop. You think you are in control, that you can put the cup down at any time. But go ahead, try it - I double grande dare you.
I speak from experience on this one - I thought I was strong. I thought I could take a coffee break. It lasted about 3 days. Those were 3 of the most painful, unproductive, and pointless days of my life. I was like a wild animal that had been caged – and I was ready to roar. Each morning by 10 am, a fog would roll over my head, my vision would blur, and my brain would begin to pound like a giant drum keeping a booming beat. I was edgy, jumpy, short, snappy, and snippy (more so than usual). My co-workers still refer to those 3 days as ‘the time Liz tried to quit coffee’. We don’t talk much about those days anymore.
In my world, coffee is king and I willfully submit to his sovereign control. At night, I lay in bed thinking to myself that tomorrow I will drink coffee from the rooster mug or tomorrow I’ll get coffee at Joyful’s or tomorrow I’ll ride 60 miles then stop at Starbuck’s. In the morning, it’s not a matter of ‘when’ – it’s simply a matter of ‘where’ and ‘what kind’. So many places, so many choices; Joyful’s, Upper Crust, Kona’s, Starbuck’s, Caribou; flavored or dark; americano with or without syrup.
There is indeed a hierarchy to my habit, a method to my madness. The act of selecting and purchasing the coffee is almost as fulfilling as the act of drinking coffee itself. There is something about coffee in a paper cup, a shameful seduction in spending two to four dollars on something that you could just as easily make at home. Perhaps it’s a secret ingredient or flavor only available to coffee shops that you cannot replicate at home. I’ve gotten close a few times, and have nearly cracked the code on making the perfect home-brewed cup. Perched atop my kitchen counter sits a behemoth of insulated stainless steel, the Cuisinart Thermal Grind and Brew Coffee Maker DGB 600 BC – quite possibly the Cadillac of coffee makers. Self-grinding and automatic brewing with two settings for small or big brews, with a large thermal pot, a brew pause setting, programmable digital clock, complete with gold filter, capable of making 10 cups and leaping tall coffee trees in a single bound. Nevermind that it takes about a day to clean it, or that it brews about as slowly as if I were to strip the beans and boil them myself. But this patience pays off as it produces the most flavorful coffee possible from a home coffee machine. However, even with this sleek, sexy coffee-making maven, I still can’t resist going to the coffee shop and slapping my money on the counter for 16 ounces of dark brown demitasse. I’ll admit that I’ve probably drank away ridiculous amounts of money over the years. Yet, why worry - you could be gone tomorrow and you can’t take any of it with you. But just in case I do go, would someone please remember to toss in my thermal cup because I’d like to take that.
So there I was standing at the coffee shop counter with Chris, reveling in this moment of caffeinated bliss, this beautiful union of not only two triathletes but two coffee drinkers, sharing a cup of joy. I reveled, I rejoiced, I relished because I knew better - this moment might be fleeting – he might come to his coffee-soaked senses and realize that he has been ensnared by an espresso-filled web.
About six months ago, this moment of joy at the coffee shop counter might not have happened in the first place. Just recently, though, something changed. It wasn’t obvious at first. There were subtle hints – brown stains on his collar, coffee on his breath. First, I found out about the Friday visits to Caribou with his co-worker, which eventually turned into a Monday and Friday visit because you might as well start and end the week just right. Soon after, I got word that he had bought a mini French press for work. Out of the blue one day, he asked for two Nissan mugs. Next, a mini grinder. And then one day, when my suspicions had brewed long enough, I confronted him.
‘Are you on the wagon?’ I asked with 20 ounces of double Americano doubt.
He perked up, eyes wide with trepidation, like an addict who had been found fixing in a coffee-scented closet with nothing but a french press, some grounds, and an empty bean bag – like a jaded java-junkie.
‘Yes, but I don’t have to have coffee everyday,’ he replied, with 12 ounces of sugar-free soy-milk decaf latte-laced uncertainty that I could see right through.
I laughed, amused by his coffee naivete. Really, no coffee everyday? Let me tell you about my 3 days, I thought. But alas there are some coffee lessons that you must learn on your own. He’ll see.
Laughter aside, my amusement grew into great pleasure and a caffeinated content. In my mind, he had reached a developmental milestone. What I spent years trying to cultivate in his mind about coffee finally blossomed into a cup-toting, fully committed coffee connoisseur on the wagon and ready to roll. I grinned, watching him fill his cup with a dark roast, a few sugars, and a touch of half-and-half. And, from my tutelage, he even showed a sign of pickiness in the preparation, the sign of any distinguished coffee drinker - 'Is there ice in this half-and-half? I don't want watery cream - yuck,' he said. Giddy up, I thought to myself, giddy up.
And as he walked out of the coffee shop this morning, thermal cup in hand, I couldn’t help but think ‘YEE HAW - that's my boy!’