October 25, 2003

Make Mine Black, Please.

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jim @ 8:50 pm


Decades ago I began to drink black coffee. As I recall, giving up the milk and sugar in my coffee was just one of many little alterations I have made in a lifelong struggle to save a few calories here and there (which caloric credits, unfortunately, have often ended up being squandered on pizza and beer, but that’s another story).

At first, the black brew tasted a bit harsh, but in short order I realized that one can actually taste the coffee when one drinks it unadulterated with dairy products and sweeteners. So, switching to black coffee resulted in one of those rare bonuses in life where something non-fattening actually tasted better than the fattening variety. However, as it turns out, that was not the biggest benefit of learning to drink black coffee – not by a long shot.

The real benefit of drinking black coffee is that it seriously simplifies one’s life.

I buy my morning drive-to-work coffee in a local 7-11. Here’s the morning scene. The serve-yourself coffee is located on a counter (more like a stainless steel topped table) in a corner of the store. On either end of the table are multiple coffee pots. The cups and lids are arranged according to size in the center of the table. There are also many varieties of coffee adulterants on the table, along with stirrers.

I often walk into the place to find the table circled by a crowd of folks who are busy preparing the beverage they call coffee, but which, in reality, is coffee flavored milk and sugar. No one speaks. Arms grope all over the table to select the dairy product of choice to pour into the coffee. There are a variety of dairy products available, including skim milk, one percent milk, two percent milk, whole milk and half and half. There are also various non-dairy coffee adulterants as well, ranging from plain to the strangely flavored kinds.

Once the dairy (or non-dairy) adulterant is selected and dumped into the coffee, then comes the sweetener selection and more groping all over the table for the sweetener of choice. Some people want sugar, while others want the sweetener in the pink packet. Still others reach for the sweetener in the blue packet.

Once the sweetener is selected, next comes the “packet shake.” I’m sure you’ve seen it (or do it yourselves). The sweetener user feels obliged to shake the packet or packets (I have seen people shake five packets at a time) to ensure that the sweetener of choice is at the bottom of the packet (as if the laws of gravity hadn’t somehow already taken care of that).

The next step in the process is the packet tearing (some can tear multiple packets at one time), followed by the sweetener dump (some can dump multiple packets at a time). The sweetener dump is followed by the search for the place to put the tops of the torn packets and the now-empty packets themselves. For the non-regulars, there are puzzled looks while they wait for a regular packet shaker customer to put the empty packets in the trash so that they can follow suit.

Next comes the stirring. This requires still more cross-table groping to grab a plastic stirrer. The stirring is made more time-consuming because the stirrer is only a thin plastic stick.

They are still not done, as now comes the sipping and adjusting or “calibrating” to use a more technical term.

Sip….hmmm…Not sweet enough…Repeat packet shaking, packet tearing, sweetener dumping and trash searching. Stir again. Sip again.

Sip…hmmmToo hot…Add more dairy (or non-dairy) adulterant. Stir again. Sip again.

Sip…hmmmToo weak…Add more coffee. Stir again. Sip again.

Sip…hmmmToo strong…Add more dairy (or non-dairy) adulterant. Stir again. Sip again.

Sip…hmmmThe cup not full enough for the price…Add a little more of everything. (Always a favorite of mine). Stir again. Sip again.

Sip…hmmmThe cup is too full…Drink more. It’s like getting a couple sips for free. (Another favorite of mine).

Once the stirrer is tossed into the trash, the morning coffee drinker is ready to put the lid on the paper cup and proceed to the register.

Not me.

I walk up to the table of modern-day alchemists, pour the coffee in the cup, snap on a lid, and, “See ya.”

The same holds true at the office. When I want a cup of coffee, I just go and pour myself a cup. I needn’t worry whether there is milk in the refrigerator, whether it might belong to someone else, whether it might be sour, or whether there is a ready supply of sugar or other sweeteners on hand. Pour and go. Snap City.

Black coffee. Try it. You’ll like it. And, your life will be a whole lot simpler. I bullshit you not.

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