I’m not addicted to coffee, but you could say I have developed a bit of a habit.
For me, every morning starts with a cup. And most afternoons. And every other Saturday night when I’m working on the Sunday edition of the paper. (I cop to that only because I once told our sports editor I had only one cup each morning, but he had seen me down two just that day and called me out on it.)
Also, I’m drinking coffee right now, but not because I need it; it’s just sort of a Method writing thing.
I don’t have to have coffee, but it does help me start the day. I am not a morning person. In fact, before 7 a.m., I’m barely human. I kind of growl instead of talking, and I bump into things a lot. Coffee is not only the best part of waking up, it’s also one of the only reasons I manage to wake up. I don’t look forward to putting on makeup or straightening my hair. Brushing my teeth isn’t too thrilling, either. But the promise of a hot cup of coffee can lure me out of my dream state and out of my cozy bed.
Plus, I love the ritual of it: I always add a little sugar and stir slowly until it dissolves, then a little cream, watching the white clouds roll around in the cup. It’s a quiet moment before I enter the rush of the day.
Sometimes I make coffee at home; more often than not I go to a coffee shop. I’m a regular at three different places. I have to spread it out — you know, so the baristas don’t judge me for coming in so often. Plus each place is best for a different reason. One has the best pastries, another has the cool mugs and the third is best for the days when you need a really high octane brew. I know it’s expensive to buy coffee by the cup, but I’d pay any amount for that hot, aromatic pick-me-up most days. Besides, I don’t get those fancy espresso drinks, which are double or triple the price. No, just drip coffee, plain and simple. As vices go, that’s a pretty minor one, right?
The obsession started because of my dad. Now there’s a guy who’s addicted. At least a pot or two a day, I’d guess. He’s legendary for his coffee-drinking. He’s a high school journalism teacher, and several times over the years, some artistic student would capture him in cartoon form, each time with these three distinguishing features: glasses, a beard and a coffee mug, looking like it had been surgically attached.
Coffee was made for journalistic types. Although we have a suspicious lack of coffee drinkers here at The Mercury, now that I think of it.
My dad taught me to make coffee for him when I was young. I’d pull a chair up to the counter and get a paper filter, put in three big scoops of grounds, then add water and press start. I loved the drip, drip, drip of the coffee maker and the way it made the house smell.
And when I brought him a mug, he’d always seem happy and surprised and say, “Thanks, sweetheart.” Eventually, my two sisters also learned to make coffee, and at times we were basically competing to fetch him a cup.
Smart guy, my dad. Even now, when I go back home to visit, his little Pavlovian system kicks in and I’ll start a pot, feeling like I’m doing something important. And the thing is, he never doesn’t want coffee. That’s probably his own Pavlovian response. He hears the drip, drip, drip and starts jonesing.
Anyway, at some point I started drinking coffee, too, and now I’m hooked. I’m kidding. I’m not really hooked. I could stop if I wanted to.
It’s not just my chemical dependency that draws me to coffee. I like the social nature of it. I like the way that it’s a sign of hospitality, welcoming guests to your home. It gives them a respite, makes them feel safe — like pioneers on a long trek across the prairie stopping at another person’s campsite. Coffee says, “Sit around the fire and have something warm to drink. Rest up. Tomorrow we have to ford the river.”
Coffee is a versatile social tool. I like that when someone says, “Let’s have a cup of coffee,” it’s an invitation for a conversation or a casual meet-up. You can have coffee with close friends or with strangers — or by yourself while reading a book. And unlike meeting for a beer or a cocktail (not that there’s anything wrong with that) meeting for a coffee never has any lascivious undertones. Coffee can happen any time of day, for any length of time.
I don’t think it’s an overstatment to say that coffee makes the world a better place to live. Although it is possible that’s just my addiction talking.