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Step, away, from the coffee...

For all of the 1990s, I was an anti-coffee snob.

Having my first drink of coffee be (if I remember correctly) pure black was a big factor in that. It was circa 1988 at a company picnic for the company, Grumman Space Station, where my mom worked as an admin assistant at the time. This, of course, was before the coffee revolution of the Nineties and later, though thankfully past the 1970s, where I hear the coffee was almost always awful.

Anyway. By sheer coincidence (no, by me not knowing to put any adulterating agents like cream, milk or sugar in it) my cup of coffee was awful. And my teenaged self (I would've been in either junior high or high school then; I think I was still an eighth grader, but don't hold me to that (or accuse me of lying)) ruled that coffee must always suck and must not pass my lips.

I stayed awake enough in high school and college SOMEHOW.

The first break in this facade came thanks to a cousin of mine becoming a barista. In the 1990s Amy/Max/"Maximy" (my nickname for her) Walsh began working for Speakeasy's cyber cafe (yeah, that one) in Seattle -- she later worked a computer job for Speakeasy's internet service, back in 2000 at the height of the dot-com bubble -- and she'd give bags of coffee beans as gifts. When I stayed at or visited my parents' house, sometimes I'd open the freezer where kept those bags and just sniff. Okay, I'd think, that smells nice, but I'm still not going to actually DRINK the stuff.

Still went coffee-less my entire time in Hermiston as a writer-reporter. (My big break in my previous habits back then was that I finally let myself drink, as in alcohol. I seriously never had a drink until the toast at my brother's wedding in April 1999. I've yet to be a big alcohol drinker, either. I like that I can take or leave drinking alcohol; if I had addictive tendencies about the stuff, I probably would've known by then.) My caffeine conduit of choice -- I like that way of putting it -- was from a pharmacy on the same block of downtown Hermiston as my then-office. Yes, a functioning Fifties-style fountain. That made me chocolate Cokes.

(My editor's drink was Diet Coke from the vending machine in the back of our office. He'd forget, though, when he'd opened a can, then later he'd assume that any opened can was probably full of flat Diet Coke so he'd get another one. By day's end there'd sometimes be four or five partially-filled cans of the stuff scattered on his desk. That kind of Diet Coke waste would give Tara Dublin fits.)

My guard finally, finally, went down in 2001, once I lived in Portland. For one thing, it's Portland. For another, I started working funky hours at a call center. Here was my schedule:

Sunday: 11:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Monday: 6 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Tuesday: Off
Wednesday: 6 a.m. to 9 a.m.
Thursday: Off
Friday: I actually don't remember, but I think it was late morning to early evening. I think. "10 a.m. to 6 p.m." sounds right, now that I think more about it.
Saturday: 4 p.m. to 10 p.m.

That took some adapting. That included my figuring out how to do what I called Makeshift Mochas. I'd get a bag of hot chocolate mix and pour part of a bag at a time into the coffee, to make the coffee more palatable to me. Since then I've heard of the mocha described as "coffee with training wheels" (in Questionable Content, I think). I like that.

I liked the Starbucks Frappuccino, which became a once-a-week-or-so treat at my hospital job from 2004 to 2008, but the way Starbucks later reformulated them -- plus apparently dropping the green tea Frappuccino, my favorite -- led to me not liking it as much.

This is one of the things I miss from my most recent office job: the good, and free, coffee. WHAT HAVE I BECOME?


Whale fluke
Chris Walsh

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