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Posted by aleta under bildungsroman, the comfort foodie

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.


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  2. alexis Said,

    i went through the same thing! and here i am, trying to limit my coffee intake. it’s a drug, i swear. now i’m just on the coffee-wagon with the rest of them.

  3. Divine Bird Jenny Said,

    I about lost it when you talked about your contingency Dunkins. My husband did, too, because THAT IS JUST LIKE ME. I don’t know many people who ‘get’ the coffee thing anymore, since I don’t work in an office like that these days. The folks I do know who drink coffee a lot never seem to really care how their drink is prepared. At least I can blame my coffee quirks on my time as a coffee house manager…but really, it just became a habit. Work feels strange without my large iced, 4 milks/5 sugars. ๐Ÿ™‚ I GET IT.

  4. Valerie Ann Said,

    I’ve been working in coffee shops for the past decade I only started drinking coffee in the ‘gotta have it’ sense two months ago. I’m still a bit in the closet about it, as it was my cravings for the embarrassingly sweet, floofy, and gigantic dunkin donuts coffee with hazelnut that finally succeeded in pushing me over the edge into addict-ville. I can rework any errand into an excuse to get a coffee from there. Train rides are the best, as I can answer any questioning looks from my cafe’s customers by passing off my gigantic styrofoam cup as an undesirable but necessary result of cutting it too close to departure time and that I needed to buy coffee in the station. Lies. Lies!

  5. Nick (Macheesmo) Said,

    Unfortunately college made me a coffee addict. In fact, I feel sometimes that the only thing I actually LEARNED in college was how much I like coffee and what I like and don’t like.

    I definitely like Dunkin Iced.

    I definitely don’t like Starbucks.

  6. Matt Said,

    I still don’t understand Starbucks. I am as dedicated a coffee person as there is, but Starbucks is just plain bad coffee. It’s really, really acidic… burns my throat. I love *dark* coffee, but not the acid that Starbucks sells. Someone I know theorized that they make their coffee more acidic so they’ll sell more milk-added drinks which are more expensive. I don’t know, but I’ll go with something with a little more reasonable pH…

  7. melissa Said,

    You’re a coffee person? ๐Ÿ˜› I’m sorry, as a real coffee person (who doesn’t drink it every day and holds out for the truly good stuff, and who totally thinks you’re excellent otherwise), I beg to differ: that’s barely coffee. It’s lots of milk and splenda and syrup with a bit of coffee added in for flavor!

  8. Stephanie Said,

    My husband hates coffee and i have it every single day. I’m not too picky about it- just a black house blend, but I despise Starbucks. It tastes burnt to me. My husband does not understand and I always say it’s a very elite club. And he isn’t in the club.

  9. Emily Said,

    I love coffee! It took me a long time to come around, but I eventually converted to the “other side” ๐Ÿ˜‰

  10. Apollo Said,

    I bought my house in large part because of its proximity to a great little coffee shop. Sometimes I think about that and realize it’s a little ridiculous and start feeling dumb. But then I walk to my coffee shop and drink my americano and read my book and sit on the back patio underneath this big, beautiful tree and feel better about myself.

    Glad to see you posting again.

  11. Charlotte Said,

    I’m still in the fledgling coffee drinking stage, but I concur with you, and with all who have said that they hate Starbucks. Besides the fact that the coffee, well, just isn’t that good, I’d much rather go to a local place than a huge conglomerate.

  12. Mr. P Said,

    Coffee sucks, tea rules, and one day you’ll all realise. ๐Ÿ™‚

  13. Becca Said,

    Mmmm coffee. You have me drooling and wanting a fix – at 10:00 at night, when I have to get up at 6:30…

    LARGE White chocolate mocha, no whip is my fave – hot or iced, either way depending on the day. But not from Starbucks, their’s is WWAAAYYY too sweet. I have to find a new favorite stop because we moved and driving 45 minutes each way for a cup isn’t practical ๐Ÿ™

  14. Amy Said,

    Just wait until you can wean yourself off the sugar and milk. You’ll enjoy it SO MUCH MORE once you start drinking it black!

  15. Bridget Said,

    I am starting to morph into a coffee person. I work next to a Caribou Coffee, and we even share bathrooms with them. They’re RIGHT THERE. A month ago, I rarely drank caffeinated anything. But then one morning I woke up feeling like Optimus Prime had gotten the better of me in a fight, and I thought “This nine hours ain’t gonna happen feeling like this.” And those sneaky bastards have a latte that tastes like a s’more. A S’MORE. They saw me coming, boy did they ever see me coming.

  16. SteffanyF Said,

    I am the WORST kind of coffee snob, but at least I admit it. I hate Dunkin’s AND Starbucks. I have four different coffee makers, and only one (espresso machine) plugs in. I grind my coffee myself, use a specific kind of sugar, only half and half. I like it strong and sweet. I’m super-picky about coffee shops and I’ve only found two in Boston that I like.
    Jeez. I feel like an addict. “Hello, my name is Steffany, and I’m a coffee-snob-aholic.”

  17. stephchows Said,

    LOL I’m a sparatic coffee drinker, and I love my DnD too ๐Ÿ™‚ they have the best iced coffee hands down!

  18. clasek Said,

    LOVE it! And so true!

  19. Smars Said,

    i just wanted to say, that your blog has the greatest name EVAR!
    that is all.

  20. Frimmy Said,

    You need a Tim Hortons. Timmys is Starbucks, plain Jane, estranged distant cousin only with really good coffee. You have excellent ordering skills and we’d recognize your voice on the headset as soon as you said hi and have it entered on the till before you finished ordering. We’d call you sweetie and say “See you tomorrow” with a big smile too! And, I might add…5 sweeteners is a heck of a lot of sweet but we would not judge. I’ve always wanted to know, at some point doesn’t the sweetness become saturated and no matter how many sweeteners/sugar you put in, it cannot get any sweeter? We have someone who orders 7 sweeteners in their large coffeh. That’s like the equivalent of 14 teaspoons of sugar. *shudders*

  21. wasabi prime Said,

    Yes! I was a very late bloomer to the world of coffee. I would have it in desserts but never order it at a coffee place. Now I just make it at home and have it pretty straight up. Oh, for the love of java jitters!

  22. Alisa Said,

    Love this post ๐Ÿ™‚ I love coffee

  23. Mar Said,

    I am drooling reading all these posts. I love Kona coffee and I think im gonna have to buy some soon, it is the best , smoothest, balanced coffee ever. I also have gotten used to drinking coffee without any milk, cream or sweeteners. I used to grab the big mug and make this cup of coffee with heavy cream and big brown sugar cubes, it was like dessert. Today I drink it in a small cup or half full mug. If you do not drink coffee pure, you really miss the taste . However, I liken this to eating Dark chocolate without milk and sugar, it is very authentic! But yes, there is no sweetness to take the edge off that taste. Thank you this article really brought back memories of those early awkward days entering the workforce, and just loving coffee each morning before work. Cheers!

  24. Christa Said,

    I absolutely love this post. <3

  25. Steve Said,

    Living in Rhode Island, I have not seen a single day of work at any job I have held without seeing the near-iconoclastic image of coworker arriving exactly on time, iced coffee plastic-cup-nestled-in-styrofoam-cup apparatus in hand.

    I don’t hold coffee people in any form of contempt whatsoever, I just find myself bemused at the effort and elaboration they go through to have their fix each and every morning.

    And how much of their paycheck they burn in the process..

    Personally, I drink whatever coffee is offered to me, I love coffee, I’m just not particular about the……particulars.

    If I do find myself at a coffee location I utter a simple request at the register area, “Medium coffee.”, if they cannot fulfill this request then I simply do not want to deal with them. Perhaps I have to add a “hot” to my order since this is the iced-coffee New England area which you are all too familiar with Aleta ๐Ÿ™‚

  26. Elissa Said,

    Come back!!!

  27. Ms. EH Said,

    Holy shit that’s alot of splenda girl! I bet your coffee tastes like cake ๐Ÿ™‚

    (my wife does the same thing, blows my medium french vanilla black ordering mind).

  28. Tiffany Said,

    I had to chuckle when I read this; coming from a family where I’m pretty sure coffee was in my mother’s breastmilk, I cannot imagine not having coffee. It IS a ritual, and morning treat for me personally, as I love those flavored creamers. Having taken the nearly alchemist road in coffee making with my own, I’ve developed a formula that seems to have a dual sedative/invigorating effect on the people who drink it! As a result, I have people entreatingly asking me for coffee with strange looks in their eyes :-s

  29. Rico Said,

    Hi! I would recommend ordering it like this: hot/cold, size, flavor, type of coffee (regular/decaf), with amount of milk and amount of sugar. Whenever the dude takes your order, he’s grabbing the cup at the same time– so if you say the size first, he might instantly grab the hot cup when you want the cold cup (they are different!).

    Of course, the rules vary depending on your condiments. If you use sugar in the raw, a good employee will want to melt it for you before putting it into a cold drink– so it might be a good idea to tell him ahead with the flavor.

    I agree about Star Bucks! Their coffee tastes really burnt to me too! I think it’s because they use purocaff to rinse off the bottom of the coffee can, and they never actually clean it. But I feel that their espresso and milk is often burnt, too.

    I get the bang for my buck, though; I always get my coffee at gas stations! Some even through a delicious blueberry muffin in for free on Mondays! o_o!

  30. Meg Said,

    There are no words for the amount of joy I get from reading your blog. Just the way you structure your sentences etc, its my sense of humor to a T ๐Ÿ™‚ Even when its about coffee.

    I like your coffee routine, you will have to share it with you coworkers and let us know how they take it. maybe they are all secret dunkin donuts fans and you will be the ones to bring them out of the closet and unite the workplace. Either that or they can give you tips on the good DD’s close to work in case of emergency.
    or it could get wierd.
    either way, i feel they should know.

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