I love coffee. I love the smell; I love the taste; I love the feel of a hot cup in my hands early in the morning. My dad used to drink Folgers from a big red can. When I was a kid, I would pop the lid off the can just to smell the aroma of the grounds. Every morning he would make coffee in an old silver pot. He’d boil water before adding a few scoops of Folgers. After the grounds settled, he’d pour a cup and drink it with burnt toast and butter, his normal breakfast. After his cup was empty, there would be leftover grounds at the bottom. He would chew a couple of them as he finished his breakfast. I started drinking coffee in college and never stopped. Let me repeat, I love coffee!
My wife, on the other hand, hates coffee...and coffee drinkers. Hate might be too strong a word. Or maybe not. Let me explain. My wife’s best friend, Nancy, is a coffee snob. It’s Pike Place from Starbucks or nothing. “I like the burnt flavor!” she says. Her husband is a Blonde Roast guy.
Over the years, my wife’s disdain for coffee (and coffee drinkers) has been exacerbated by the three of us. When we travel together, we three coffee lovers are always on the lookout for Starbucks. The coffee hater gets aggravated whenever we make a detour off the main road to grab a cup. “What a waste of time!” she says.
I’ve learned from experience that if I want to keep peace in the car while traveling, I had best not stop for coffee. Well, I messed up. Not too long ago, the two of us were traveling by car from Wisconsin to Michigan to attend a wedding. Our friends were driving separately. We left in a rush, and I didn’t have time to make coffee. Two hours into our drive, I saw a sign for Starbucks. Without saying anything, I took the exit.
“What are you doing?” my wife asked.
“I’m gonna run through the Starbucks drive-through and grab a cup of coffee,” I said while trying not to look over at her.
“Really?” she said, sounding irritated.
I pulled around the building and slid into the drive-through lane, grateful there were only three or four cars ahead of me. I’m not your typical Starbucks customer. My standard order is a medium Pike, black. No fancy drinks that take forever to make. And I don’t use their silly names. Tall? Grande? Venti? No. It’s small, medium and large. At this point I noticed that the vehicle ahead of us was a large mini-van filled with people. I could hear the woman ordering what seemed like 10 different drinks, not to mention sandwiches and various other treats. I heard the barista through the speaker say, “That’ll be $109.45,” she said? Seriously, who orders $109 worth of food and drinks in a Starbucks drive-through?
Suddenly, the knot in my stomach started tightening, and I could feel my body temperature rising. Cars had piled up behind me by this time, so I had no way to escape. We had waited 10 minutes before she said, “I thought this would take two minutes.”
“Well, these idiots ahead of us just ordered 10 different things!”
We finally pulled up to order. “Medium Pike, black,” I said.
“Would you like cream?” the girl asked.
“No,” I said. “That’s why I ordered it black.”
We pulled forward as the minivan pulled up to the window. We waited...and waited...and waited.
Finally, the barista started handing stuff out the window to the driver. Drink after drink, bag after bag.
Finally, after waiting another 10 minutes, I pulled up to the window. The cheerful barista scanned my card, asked me how my day was going and handed my piping hot beverage out the window. In my haste to get going, I grabbed the cup a bit too quickly and squeezed it. The lid popped off and I jerked my hand back. Half the cup spilled down the side of the car and the rest of it splashed into the car, all over my white shirt.
“Oh, my goodness!” the girl said. “Let me get you a new cup!”
“No thanks! We gotta get going!” I said, and I pulled away.
My wife looked at me as if to say, “Well, that’s what you get.”
Two hours later, we pulled up to the house where a bunch of us were staying for the wedding. Nancy had called a minute earlier. “Hey,” she said, “I got you some Starbucks and set it on the banister at the top of the stairs!”
As I was climbing the staircase with two suitcases in my hands, one of our other friends came around the corner carrying a garment bag. She spun around to greet us and the bag hit the cup of coffee and knocked it off the banister. My medium Pike, black, went splashing down the steps and the empty cup landed at my feet.
Apparently, not for me.