Strong Coffee

As a teenager, I thought only the weak drank coffee. Besides, it looked and tasted like mud. To prove my misguided thinking, I forced myself to survive four years of college –including many all-night study sessions—without drinking a drop of coffee. I was strong—or so I thought.

Despite the Starbucks craze, I continued to avoid the drink the rest of the world was drinking. However, a couple of years after college, I had a job in which I had to wake up at 4:30 am. My co-workers drank coffee, smiled constantly, and had boundless energy. Meanwhile, I jealously struggled to keep my eyes open.

Then one day I finally gave in and had my first cup of coffee. I then had a second cup and a third. What the hell was I thinking all these years? This was fantastic. I was flying high…and jittery and bouncing off the walls. I was also awake that whole night and continually going to the bathroom.

But for a couple of glorious hours (in between trips to the bathroom), I was the energizer bunny. I had the energy of three non-caffeinated men. If I could just control myself, I could eliminate the side-effects and have the best of both worlds.

For several years, I did just that. I limited myself to one cup a day. While friends and co-workers guzzled 16 ounce lattes multiple times a day, I was proudly in control of my addiction.

My willpower stayed strong when the kids arrived though my relationship with coffee grew closer (and stranger).

“Do you have to bring that coffee cup with you everywhere you go?” my wife asked.

I did. Unfortunately, I misplaced my mug often it as I brought it me with me to the bathroom, when I answered the phone, got up to get the remote control, answered the door, etc.

“Has anyone seen my Jets mug?”

My wife grew annoyed each time I asked the question. However, she found searching for my Jets mug far less annoying than searching for the naked lady mug I used to drink from and carried around like a baby blankie.

Recently, I weakened and moved to a cup and a half—one cup in the morning and half a cup in the afternoon. Despite the additional half a cup of java daily, I remain jitter-free. However, if I have that extra coffee too late in the day, I‘m awake half the night.

When I’m experiencing one of those sleepless nights, there’s no disputing it’s from coffee. However, some old-school coffee drinkers, like my father, take offense with me calling what I drink coffee. I like it light and sweet, with French Vanilla coffee mate. To my father, this is blasphemy.

“You drink it light and sweet? And with French Vanilla coffee mate? You call that coffee? Coffee is black.”
I should have added, “And disgusting,” but didn’t.

My father continued. “Do you also stick out your pinky when you drink coffee? Do you carry your coffee mate in a little purse?”

He didn’t put it in those words exactly, but it felt like a challenge to my manhood.

I was ready to meet the challenge but ran to the bathroom, with my coffee cup, instead.

Regardless of what anyone else said, I was a certified coffee drinker and had the stained teeth to prove it.

My father said he was kidding and I wanted to keep it that way so I didn’t dare mention that I drink instant coffee—an offense punishable by flogging with a coffee stirrer. Instead, I stupidly appeased my parents by agreeing to another cup, a little darker than usual.

But I couldn’t find that coffee cup anywhere—a blessing in disguise.

“Has anyone seen my coffee mug? If not, I’ll just have coke.” I was off the hook.

To my horror, my wife made a sudden announcement.

“I found the cup. It was in the bathroom!”

“Let me fill you up,” my mother said motioning for the cup.

“And make it dark!” I said gritting my teeth in disgust.

Copyright © 2010, Brad Manzo

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