I started my first professional job three days after turning 22, a little naive, a little rough around the edges, not even technically having even graduated college, so the professional workplace was, well, like going to high school again: everyone else seemed to know exactly what to do except for me, and I always felt like I was missing something, but nobody could really explain it to me.
Every morning, coworkers arrived just before 8:30, all with that one accessory, the must-have, the cannot-get-to-work-without (kinda) . . . a cup of coffee. I didn’t get it, this was like, American Eagle cable sweaters all over again, except instead of every girl having “her color,” everybody had their order, to a tee, and always had a store or even specific location of preference.
Sarah had a medium Dunkies. Amanda had something that smelled froofy from one of those drive-through parking lot shacks. Inexplicably, someone would show up with Starbucks they picked up on their way to work in suburban, nearly rural New Hampshire. Michael and Ken hated the place downstairs and would actually walk across to the Cumbie’s for gas station coffee.
I didn’t get it. I didn’t understand the orders, why the gal I was carpooling with would stop on our way to work, even though it would be cutting it close, what the physical size difference was between a 20oz and a 32oz. I could never estimate a price on an order, and I had to read a menu for like 20 minutes to figure out what I wanted, had no idea why everybody loved Starbucks. All in all it was embarrassing. “Eh, I just don’t like coffee, I guess,” I would tell people. Shrug. Maybe order an iced chai. Save myself the anxiety and weird brand of social awkwardness that belongs to smokers and people who don’t drink alcohol.
So I’m really only four years past that now, but at some point along the way . . . it changed. And I only recently realized that there is this world I’ve created for myself. A routine, ritual, comfort, almost a vice, but kinda not really, a way to remind myself it’s a new day.
In this new world, I have to work a visit to Dunkin’s into the first half hour of driving ANYWHERE. And I know the closest in all four directions, including contingency Dunkin’ Donutses if the first had a burnt batch. I know the difference in price from store to store ($2.61 here, $2.72 there…). I have a favorite Dunkies, but at my second choice, the guy at the drive through window calls me “sweetie” and always says “see you tomorow!”
I can tell when the drive-through line will be faster than walking in, and with a glance tell you if my coffee needs more milk or they errantly put in skim. I’m an expert, but it’s so narrow a science that nobody could possibly care. The whole rigamarole is completely rote, and yet so little effort just makes my day before it’s even really taken off.
“Can I get a large iced hazelnut, extra milk, 5 splenda? That’ll be all!”
I’ve said that easily 360 times over the last year, if not more. I think I’m close to the perfect ordering process: size; iced/hot; flavor; milk content; sugar content. That particular order seems to meet the most success.
So if I’m ever late to meet up with you and arrive, iced coffee in hand, please don’t think I was dallying; that’s like showing up with a coat on, you wouldn’t fault me for being late because I stopped to put on a coat, now would you?
Besides, you understand.
I’m a coffee person now.